It’s been three months since we brought home a little flock of Katahdin sheep. Only seven of them, but already they are making themselves at home and weaving their way into my heart.
I’ve always been a farm girl, having spent the first ten years of my life on a dairy farm with a myriad of animals ranging from pigs to chickens and a few ornery goats. All these years later, I find myself stewarding a little farm with a handful of chickens and guineas and now . . . this tiny flock of sheep. As simple as they are, these Katahdin sheep are teaching me something about what it means to follow Christ and recognize his voice.
When the sheep first arrived at our farm, they were wary and skittish of me. I was not their shepherd. Their previous shepherd was now thirty miles away from where we are. As we left the sheep farm that day, the young man who had been their shepherd since they were born said to me, “Don’t worry, they’ll get to know you. Just spend time with them . . . and a few sweet treats wouldn’t hurt either.” I’d hoped he was right.
Each morning, as the sun greeted a new day, I came to the sheep paddock, calling to each one with sweet treats in hand. Each evening, I returned to check on them, adding fresh water to the trough and, at times, moving them to a fresh paddock of grass. As time went on, I found myself pausing to sit in the field with them — talking to them softly and watching them graze the green grass.
One by one, they began to approach me on their own. First the older and more experienced ewes, followed by the spring lambs growing bigger and stronger.
Every time they came close, I held my breath, internally willing them to trust me. Day after day we sat like that, me and my little flock of sheep. Each day, they willingly came closer and closer as I, in turn, came to know them individually by their own unique markings and quirks.
One morning, as I hopped out of my truck, I gave them a call, just as I had done every morning before. But unlike the other times, this day was different. Instead of just lifting their heads and going back to grazing, the oldest ewe let out a bleating call and ran to the gate to greet me. As if on cue, the other six followed suit and before I could even get the gate open, they were crowding one another to see who could get closest. As a new shepherdess, it was a wonderful feeling to know they finally seemed to trust me. I wondered if it would last or if they would go to simply anyone holding sweet treats in their hands.
A few days later, as I pulled up to the sheep paddock, my daughter Anna popped her head out of the barn while working on a few of her own animal chores. As we chatted, I told her about the response of the sheep to my arrival a couple days before. I shared how excited I was that they were starting to come to me when I called, yet still wondered out loud if they only came because of the sweet treats in my pocket.
Anna paused from her work, looked at me and said, “No, Mom. It’s you. They recognize you and they know your voice.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because . . . when I got to the barn, they lifted their heads. But when I came up to the fence and called them, they went back to eating. They never came over to the gate . . . until they saw you and heard your voice. Then they all came running! They know your voice, Mom. You’re it. You’re their shepherd!” said Anna.
In that moment, I realized that my sheep knew my voice — really knew my voice! Today, not only do they come when I call, but now they literally follow me across the field, through the gate, and down the lane as I lead them to new grass. Now, as I sit in the field with them, they immediately gather around, pressing their noses to my hands and grazing close as we co-exist in that green field together.
In the quiet moments of sitting with my little flock, I am profoundly reminded of what it means to be shepherded by my own heavenly Father. In a world full of noise and so many voices, I want to be a woman who knows my Father’s voice and responds without hesitation. Not only do I want to know His voice, but I want to draw so close to Him that I know His character and trust Him without hesitation as He leads me to new places.
In a world full of noise, do you know His voice? He’s calling you — draw close, be seen, be known by the very one who created you just as you are.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
John 10:27 (ESV)