(A four minute read)
This essay was developed from material originally developed for “Masterpiece (A Love Story, a memoir about recovery from sexual abuse.
At age 15, I was about to descend into a lifestyle of drug use, alcohol binges and sexual perversion. The only thing that mattered was how I felt; I was blind to the consequences of my actions, and the destinations of my desires. Like a lost lamb, I was dumb and helpless before the traps set ahead of me. I needed a Shepherd, but had forgotten mine.
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When your own mother runs from you, something’s wrong.
The child’s name is Dippity, and she is a five-month old Jacob ewe. Dippity has a problem, and that is the configuration of her horns. They jut backward from her skull at dual 45-degree angles – 45 degrees out and 45 degrees up. It is the perfect combination to make her continually fence-trapped, a feat she mastered quickly and soon managed at least once a day.
I became alerted to this phenomenon through repeated and vigorous bawling.
My Christian faith grew during my years as a sheep farmer, in the years after I got sober and began to follow God. The biblical truth that sheep become like shepherds and shepherds like sheep became real to me. The sheep knew my voice,1 but I also knew theirs. This was a flock of Jacob Sheep, which are vocal, and their voices are quite distinguishable from one another.
So when Belle is complaining about breakfast being late, I know. When Marian wants to assert her matriarchal dominance, I nod in agreement. When Dippity wants to be rescued, I sigh, pull on my boots, and make one more annoying trek to the upper pasture.
Woven field fence is a wonderful invention. It comes in large rolls and is relatively easy to install along a line of metal T-posts. The square spaces between the vertical and horizontal wires are small at the bottom, and become larger toward the top. At the height of Dippity’s head, about two feet off the ground, they were just the right size for her to work her noggin through a hole in pursuit of the always-greener grass on the other side, grass which she can see, but never reaches.
Her horns are just short and flexible enough to follow her nose, snap through, and then prevent a return. When the grass turns out to be unreachable, the bawling begins.
The first time this happened I was nestled snug in my bed enjoying a good book. I was ready to snap off the light for a long late-winter’s nap. It was very dark. It was cold. It was raining (it was April in Oregon). I rose, dressed, pulled on the boots and a slicker, and trudged up the hill to see what was the matter. That’s what shepherds do.
At the time, the fence-trap problem seemed like a fluke, and didn’t merit a second thought. Two weeks later, it became more than apparent this was a pattern of behavior that would never change.
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Unlike a lamb, I have free will and my behavior can change when I want it to. But just like a lamb, I also need help. When I am fence trapped, I need my Shepherd to come along and free me.
1. John 10:27-28
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