I stepped with great care on the icy, dirt floor. The old barn was a relief from the assaulting wind, though it still whistled through the many cracks of wear and time. The dog bounded beside me, ready to begin his routine: rouse sleepy cats and cause a ruckus. I pulled a bit of hay from the bale, debris lighting the air and onto my coffee stained work coat before we made our way back into the icy wind.
Blue licked the frosted gate, liking the way his tongue stuck for a moment as we eased into the sheep pasture. The hillside was still tucked into its bleached blanket, framed in gray-brown woods and thickets. Not a hoof print. Not a track. Not a blemish on the whole snow covered field.
I dropped the hay into the feeder before greeting the sheep. I know what people say about sheep. That they’re dirty, dumb, smelly animals. It’s fairly accurate.
Sheep smell a lot like onions, but I like onions. Sheep don’t get political or philosophical, and I like how uncomplicated they are, especially these days.
But I guess it’s all a comparison game. Sheep seem unsanitary, unless they are compared to what lurks in the cupholder of toddler car seats. Sheep seem dull, until they are compared to me in a math class. Jokes aside, the hair (not wool) of our Katadhins had always seemed so white until their knobby, little legs carried them into the middle of that snowy pasture.
“White as snow” it’s a phrase from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah made familiar by choirs across the world singing “Jesus Paid It All.” The sheep had seemed white, until they stood knee-deep in true white. How often do I compare what I think I know to Truth?
It’s a slow fade, or our eyes have adjusted to the world’s standard, and we judge something as whiter, brighter, truer, righter, or more “okay” than actuality. How often do we judge what is good and true based upon our limited experiences? The thin plank walls of the barn are quite cozy compared to the open elements, but not a brick home. My old coat doesn’t seem so stained with coffee and who knows what, but wow, a new one would be nice. Since everyone does it, it must be fine for children (and their parents) to squander hours on screens (7.5 hours is the daily average for kids 8-18, CDC.gov), but the greatest, most comfortable, or defining memories of childhood don’t often include the Mario Brothers or Minecraft.
Piles of books are written about the slow fade of society toward the acceptance of sinfulness and self-destruction. It’d be nothing new to mention how much the slide has accelerated in recent years. The world has fitted us with Truth dimming shades. Or was it blinders?
But praise the Lord, Jesus Christ has always helped the blind to see.
After coming in from the morning chores, I started to make a pot of oatmeal. My thoughts boiled down to how we’re all sinners in this broken, beautiful world. It’s not just the communist regimes, abortion providers, drug lords, sex traffickers, and closet drinkers. We all have smudged and stained souls. But there’s hope: the saving grace of Jesus Christ is available to everyone… the tax collector, the leper, that thief on the cross, you and me.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool,” (Isaiah 1:18).
I think it’s best to realize we’re like the dimwitted, dirty sheep. At some point, all of us wander outside the safety of the fence and the pristine, manicured pastures. We sample those gray-brown thickets of poisonous vice, fall to sin, and get extra muddy. Oh, but how the Good Shepherd loves us! And since we’re such muddy, smelly little sheep, He tends to us and washes us. He cleanses us of the inconsequential coffee splatters, and rids us of the most drastic crimson stains of sin. White as that perfect, snowy pasture.
How beautiful. How good. How true.