I have been tortured by an image in my head.
It involves white gray fuzz, a sound of rummaging, soft wool and beady eyes.
Yes sheep. I am disturbed by sheep.
But I am not disturbed by just any ordinary sheep. I am miserable over the 99th sheep. And no, I didn't say the 100th sheep. The lambie lamb who ran away. I am talking about the sheep that stayed. I am talking about the parable of Jesus in Luke 15.
Those sheep in the pen. They are just happy and safe and secure in the pasture. They love their sheep herder man. It's cool that the sheep herder man leaves them to go find the lost sheep right? Is it? Where did the lost sheep go? No one knows for sure, but what is exciting is that these sheep are jolly and eating their green grass.
But that 99th sheep in the pen is NOT jolly. The safe happy pen is not happy. That sheep's woolly white clothing carpet has turned gray. This sheep doesn't merrily chew on grass. His beady eyes are heavy. He lays by the very edge of the pen, the closest to the outside.
He feels like he is on the outside looking in.
But the other sheep tell him, “No, you are on the inside! You should be happy”
But the sheep is not happy. The sheep is sad. The sheep that the herder went out looking for was very close to 99 sheep's heart. Sheep 100 abandoned everyone and now sheep herder dude is out searching for him. Sheep 99 misses his best friend and his Shepherd.
Sheep 99 wishes that the Shepherd would come find him even if he is inside the pen. He does not feel found. He wants to be rescued. He feels lonely and isolated. He feels like his other sheep friends only care that they are in. Everyone breathe a sigh of relief, “we are on the inside”.
But sheep 99 is on the outside.
At least that's how it feels.
Does the Shepherd go out to save those who walk away from him? Who left the pen? Who never discovered the pen? Does the Shepherd feed grass to those He loves?
What does he do with someone who has loved Him for 20 plus years but is now tired, bored, feels alone and sleeps at the very edge of the pen, planning an escape.
Sheep 99 only wants to make a run for it so he can be rescued.
He wants to be chased.
He wants to be fought for.
He wants to be pursued after.
Sheep 99 doesn't want the Shepherd leaving 99 sheep. He also wants Shepherd to find the lost sheep. He can't sleep till his friend is home. Sheep 100's life was unfair. This sheep was abused by a big bad wolf, but was too afraid to tell anyone. Instead sheep 100 hates the Shepherd for not being there when he needed him most. So Sheep 100 left.
Sheep 99 didn't leave physically. But Sheep 99's heart is somewhere else. Sheep 99 has survivor guilt too. Sheep 99 curls up in a fuzzy ball on a space with no grass. Just dirt. It's dusk now and the Shepherd is not back. He is out searching for that lost sheep. Sometimes Sheep 99 wishes the Shepherd would search for the naive and ignorant sheep in the pen too. He wishes the Shepherd would show them other pastures. He wishes they weren't so comfortable knowing that others were eaten by wolves and that they were safe. He wishes they cared more about the Shepherd's presence rather than having an “in” to the gate.
The gate doesn't have a lock or a code or a key. They seem to think so though. They don't feel the weight of their freedom. They don't feel the pain of those in the gate or the pain of those outside.
I guess that's what I'm disturbed by. I keep having this mental image of the Shepherd, of God tracking down a lost sheep in the treacherous mountains somewhere. Leaving the rest of the silly little sheep in the dust. But the more I come into this picture I notice something else. The lost sheep is me. It's you. It's the sheep that was mutilated by the wolf. It's the happy naive careless sheep. It's the 99 sheep who feels alone and forgotten, who dreams of an escape. Jesus is after that sheep. I am the 100th sheep. You are the 100th sheep. We are all the 100th sheep.
I'm not really sure what all those 99 sheep are doing in the pen. But it's more about perception right? Those sheep could be lost too.
And when you're lost you can bet your Rescuer will notice before you even put one hoof in front of you, before you silently inch off the dusty ground, before you twitched. He saw you lost and He was already on His way to find You and bring you back.
Not to a pen.
But to Him.