“You anoint my head with oil.”
Sheep can do very little in caring for themselves. And they’re not the smartest animals on the block. Our ewes came to us at the end of winter. Their thick wool coats were good insulation for them, but were filthy from a winter of muddy ground, and no way to clean themselves. As Springtime arrived, the warming days seemed to highlight the thickness of their wool, and the dirt that clung to it. Their wool was matted, and held the sand and dirt of last summer deep in their matted coats. Sheerers were in high demand in the Spring, and we finally decided to try sheering the poor ladies ourselves, even though it was not anything any of us had ever done before. You-Tube videos of sheering and an Amazon sheep-sheering tool in hand, we headed out to the field, hopeful but very hesitant. As well we should have been.
The shepherd referred to in this Psalm would pour oil over the head of a sheep to keep the nose flies (lovely thought) from crawling into the sheep’s brain (very painful!) We needed the oil for something else….
As my son, Nate, zeroed-in on the target for our first victim, I (being the nice mother that I am) agreed to help him hold the sheep while he used his new super-sized electric sheering razor. I was well aware of how terrible the woolen coats of these sheep looked, but had never gotten a very up-close-and-personal view. That ended abruptly. As Nate struggled with his first victim, getting her down on her side, I immediately realized that I was going to have to lay on top of the freaking out ewe while he ran the clippers holding her down as much as he could while trying to find his way through the thick, filthy wool to her skin. I knew that once sheep are down and on their sides/back, they’re somewhat immobilized. (“Why are you cast down, Oh my Soul?”….’cast down’ is an immobilizing situation for a sheep.) Well….our sheep hadn’t read that verse, apparently.
While I laid most of my body on the Ewe, pulling one of her front legs up so she couldn’t flail it at us, I became intimately aware of how much dirt, sand, and old pooh was embedded into all that wool. About 6 inches from my face. Not to mention the question of what kinds of ticks or other crawly things had taken up residence in there. I tried to cover her eyes, thinking that it might help her not be so freaked out. It didn’t help that her two lambs were there waiting for their lunch. As Nate tried to cut away the gross wool, I talked to her as one mother to another. All the while, pulling off the filthy wool being cut away from her white skin. Most of the orphan lambs were gathered around to see what we were doing, baa-ing at the whole crazy scene. The ewe put up an incredible struggle. But in the end, she walked…then ran away…. Looking like an entirely different creature. Her skin and fur were white. She was unrecognizable! As she walked away, we realized that there was one clump of white fur We’d missed, sticking up right in the middle of her back. She looked like a very short, stout camel with a tiny hump. Comical. I secretly thought that she deserved that for all her fighting of the good thing we were doing for her.
But then, a wonderful looooong shower and clean clothes later, I kept contemplating the desperate fight she put up against having her gross, filthy coat of wool removed from her skin. Her skin could finally breathe again. Cool air could touch her again. The layers of past life could truly become part of the past, with a fresh, new future ahead.
How do I do that in my own life? Wny do I do that? When my Good Shepherd pulls me aside, takes out His Sheers, and begins removing the cruddy, matted old stuff from my life, I fight every minute of it. Why do we humans freak out when the build-up of years of dirt, old wool, bugs, and crap come into our Good Shepherd’s hands to remove it for us. The ewe could not remove it for herself. It required the strong Hands of her Shepherd to cut it away and pull it off. Yet she was desperate to keep it around her, though it had only bad effects on her daily life.