My Sheep, Mushies
As I leaned over the fence into her pen, I realized how much I would miss my sweet ewe friend. She had passed away in the night. If you were to observe her closely, you would notice her fleece was a little more fawn than the other orphans, sporting a mottled brown face, hence the name Mushroom (Mushies for short). I had raised her from day one. She was my friend, the ewe I will always remember.
I was living in northern British Columbia, 20 miles from the nearest town, and shepherding my own flock of sheep. I was well aware of the predators in this rugged land! It was a “hands on” adventure.
I was not unfamiliar with the sheep world. I was raised in New Zealand where sheep outnumber the human population—about 50 million sheep to four million people with no threatening predators. My father, Ivan Bowen, and his brother, Godfrey, were involved in the wool industry. “Bowen” was a household name in the sheep shearing industry, and for a season, my father bore the title of world champion shearer. I never lost the thrill of watching that fleece come off in 60 seconds! And, to this day, mint sauce with succulent lamb is still a delicacy, which we regularly enjoyed in our Downunder homeland.
As I worked closely with the flock, I learned the heart of the shepherd towards the sheep. They knew me and I them (John 10:14). More than that, they pulled at my heartstrings, doing nothing other than being sheep, no matter how stubborn. They were my flock and I loved them.
We also, as the sheep of His flock, pull at the heartstrings of the Good Shepherd and, we don’t have to try! We have His heart! I discovered the fierce protective love the shepherd has over his flock. Our Shepherd is not the paid hireling and will never abandon His flock. And this is just how you feel as a mother shepherd over the little flock God has given you. He has given you His shepherd heart.
Sheep cannot survive without the shepherd. They are totally reliant on the shepherd for their protection, sustenance, and healing of their wounds. They go astray, get sick, dirty, and are totally vulnerable, just like us—and our children (Isaiah 53:6).
One day I was sitting in the barn, quietly watching the flock contentedly chew their cuds. Suddenly, one of the older ewes stood up, looked at me, trotted right over to where I was sitting, and put her head on my lap. Can you imagine how that delighted my heart? I scratched her head and whispered endearments to her! Isaiah 62:4 tells us, “The Lord delights in you.” Sheep also delight the shepherd. How easily we move the heart of the Good Shepherd.
In contrast, the shepherd never rests if one sheep is missing. As the old hymn, says, “There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold, But one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold.” I could never sleep if one of the flock was unaccounted for after evening check up. We would search with our flashlights for that lost ewe, rejoicing when found, but saddened if lost.
I raised many orphans and watched them grow. They had a special place in my heart. I believe orphans have a special place in the heart of our Good Shepherd. I named every orphan, but I had a particularly soft spot for Mushies.
I would often take them to the lower field and watch them frolic. Mushies would come and lean hard into me. If I moved, she would fall! The shepherd loves it when we lean into Him!
They all knew my voice, but Mushies consistently responded. In the summer the flock had their routine, leaving the barn early in the morning to graze in the lower pasture. At high noon, in the heat of the day, they trudged up the hill back to the barn for rest and water. I decided to test Mushies. I called her name and wondered if she would respond as it was exceptionally hot and she was literally panting for water.
“Mushies,” I called, “Mushies.” Back came her weak, tired bleet! Baaah! Wow! How thrilled our shepherd is when he hears the response of our voice to His call! Not only did the sheep know my voice, but I knew theirs (John 10:3-5). I could identify quite a few of the flock by the tone of their bleat. I certainly knew Mushies’ cry. God knows your cry too, just as you know the cries of each one of your children.
Whenever I think back on this season of shepherding, a “Mushies” story is forever etched in my memory. It was a sunny day. I had gone into town to do the weekly errands, leaving the sheep contentedly grazing. As I hopped out of the car on my return, the sound of continual bleeting filled the air. Something was up. It was Mushies. Her bleats were desperate.
I walked into the field. She immediately ran over, stood right in front of me, looked up at my face, and stamped her hoof, her bleats becoming more desperate by the minute. My heart sank. I knew instinctively what had happened--a coyote had taken her lamb. She was trying to say to me, “Where have you taken my baby? What have you done with her?”
To fully understand her anguish, Mushies was the only orphan that had not conceived for many lambing seasons. Usually, any infertile ewe is culled from the flock as production is important in a flock, but her special relationship with the shepherd saved her!
Three to four days earlier she had disappeared overnight, which was rather worrying, but she appeared in the morning with a brand new lamb. We were thrilled. It truly was the prettiest lamb in the flock, her markings of brown and white like none other. Mushies was a proud mother. She literallly strutted beside her little one, protecting her every move.
As I looked down at my bleating Mushies, my heart went out to her. I tried to console her. Of course, I could not convey to her that it wasn’t me that had taken her lamb. It was the enemy! It was living in a rugged land! She cried for days and wouldn’t have anything to do with me for weeks.
I never loved her more. As her shepherd, my heart ached; and I wept over her loss. She never conceived again. Even as I type, I feel again the pain she went through!
Our Shepherd, Jesus, aches over our pain and weeps over the seasons of our loss, never loving us more. That can often sound trite in a season of pain, but, truly, there is no one who cares for us like Him. Who knows us like our Shepherd? Who else has numbered the hairs on our head? Who knows when we rise up and sit down? Who knows our words even before they are in our tongue? (Psalm 139).
Truth rings from the old hymn, “No one ever cared for me like Jesus, There's no other friend so kind as He, No one else could take the sin and darkness from me, O how much He cares for me.”
Our Good Shepherd will never leave us, forsake us, or turn His back on us. He is the Great Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Lean into Him today.
Embrace your shepherd anointing that God has given to you as a mother. Be the shepherd He wants you to be to your little flock.
KATE MARCHINIAK (Nancy Campbell’s sister)
Kingston Springs, Tennessee, USA