This is “Chris the Sheep,” who made international news this week after being discovered by a hiker in Australia. He had been separated from his flock, and guessers say he had probably been wandering lost and alone for about 5 years. While it is a miracle to me that he hadn’t fallen prey to the many predators in the outback, the massive amount of wool that had grown in that time is what caught everyone’s attention.
Christian commentators immediately latched onto the similarities between Chris and the parable of the lost sheep in the New Testament. He had lived at high risk of contracting disease and parasites, falling to predators, and finally just succumbing to the weight of the wool he was trapped inside. Only returning to a caring shepherd (or shearer, in this case) could release Chris from his burdens. The metaphor for someone lost in sin is pretty obvious.
What the commentators missed, though, is that Chris will need ongoing care throughout the remainder of his life. Because he had lived on his own for so long, his nature had returned to a wild state. He had to be sedated for his shearing because he has completely lost his trust for humans. So it is between mortals and Heavenly Father. Having had to make it on our own for so long, we often lose our ability to trust God — our beliefs and impressions of Him have become skewed, and we often imagine danger where there is no need to fear Him.
Also, Chris had acid burns where the wool had trapped the urine next to his skin and had other places where he had wounds that needed to be treated. His wool will grow back over time. He cannot simply be left alone — he will return to the only life he knows and end up just as bad off as he was in the beginning. So it is with anyone who comes unto Christ. There is no “magic bullet” that says we have “arrived” and can just coast. Baptism doesn’t guarantee that we will remain spiritually healthy, neither does receiving temple ordinances or serving a mission. We must all continually return to the Good Shepherd to be nourished, shorn, and treated for wounds that we incur everyday. Without regular time with the shepherd, we will become lost again.
Sleep has been problematic lately. Some of it is due to age, some if it is due to stress. I rotate through several methods that help me get the sleep I need, and rarely remember my dreams. Last night, though, I remembered one.
I could easily chalk it up to the antihistamine I took right before bed, but I had a bizarre dream that, even though I was married to my real husband, I reconnected with an old high school sweetheart (fabricated especially for this dream) and agreed to marry him. I never left my husband, and kept stringing the two of them along. I awoke before the dream resolved and felt the distinct impression that I cannot embrace the new in my life if I’m clinging to what I have now.
Of course, thinking about the symbols in my dream, I have to wonder if embracing the new is always the wise choice. I have made not just commitments to, but sacred covenants with, my husband. We have expended a lot of time and energy to build a beautiful — even if it’s not perfect — marriage. There are a lot of reasons to preserve what I already have.
So, the end result of the dream is that it has given me a lot of chance to pause and think. Sometimes, I think I buy into modern cultural assumptions that new and exciting is always better. That’s simply not true. Sometimes those things that have been staples and anchors “forever” need to be kept, preserved, and cherished. Looking (as well as praying and even fasting) before leaping is still wise counsel.
I love the way the Spirit can use all sorts of things in life to speak, teach, and guide. Hopefully, something of what I’ve shared is actually useful!