March 8, 2006

Lessons From Leslie

y ears perk up when a pastor, author, or teacher begins talking about those white fluffy things that humans resemble: sheep. Those docile creatures that wouldn’t hurt a fly, and are so stupid that anyone could catch one.
They haven’t met my Leslie.
A small Shetland sheep with gray-brown shaggy wool, Leslie was just what I was looking for--or so I thought! After an extended aerobic workout, my mom, the previous owner, and I finally made an NFL tackle and downed the evasive quarterback. My family has yet to acquire a pickup, so it was into the minivan with Leslie. Whereas she had run with an unruly flock in sparse pastures at the base of the mountains, where lurked wild animals cruising for lunch, now she would have her own barn, a fenced grazing area, and be well cared for.
Leslie was not impressed.
Trying to offer comfort, I sat with her while Mom drove. As the car ascended the mountain pass toward her new home, Leslie lunged at me. I was shocked! Sheep are not supposed to do that. Unfortunately, no one had informed Leslie. She lunged a second time, trying to bite whatever part of me was closest. Now I was scared. Maybe she was part coyote or wolf. Maybe an accident at birth took place, and she was a wolf in sheep’s disguise.
Finally home--with body parts still intact--we unloaded Leslie into the barn to be with the other sheep. I hoped she wouldn’t eat them.
It was shearing season--that beautiful time in the warmth of spring when a sheep lies down quietly for the shearer to relieve her of her winter wool coat . . . well, it took two of my “closest” friends to hold down Leslie and her four flailing extremities while I attempted to shear her. I say “closest” because no sane, sensible human would willingly restrain an animal such as Leslie while sharp shears charged all over her body. Leslie tried biting the hands that were helping her. She didn’t realize that while those hands kept her from moving, they also protected her from injury. Nevertheless, year after year we had the same struggle.
The first year Leslie birthed a pitch-black ram lamb. His wool lay in tight curls close to his body. He looked like a poodle, thus was dubbed Velvet Sir Poodles. Sir Poodles was as mean as his mom. He was definitely a free spirit, and to catch him was a robust tackle football game with no end zone.
We should have learned from these two. We didn’t. Leslie brought forth a second black ram lamb. (We were hoping for a black ewe lamb we could befriend and keep.) Diablo, as he was named, had two little horns and followed closely in his family’s footsteps.
Shearing the three was a lengthy process to take off only the wool, not sacrifice the sheep, and not let them escape with one side bare and the other a woolly mess.
My friends moved away, and no one else was willing to tackle and hold that position for several hours, so it was decided that the trio needed to move to more satisfactory accommodations. I shed no tears.
Though my sheep have not always resembled what writers write about, pastors preach about, or teachers teach about, they do resemble humans. Or should I say, humans resemble them.
Leslie didn’t want to go to another home, even though it was more luxurious than her own. Do we always want to go to a better place where God is taking us? I am good at “lunging and biting” when I don’t want to do something. What about when we get sheared? When God wants to remove those things we have clung to for so long? Do we get hurt because we are still struggling when God tells us to wait patiently for Him?

We are like sheep and have gone astray. But don’t take lessons from Leslie.
Kristi Geraci and her 11 gentle sheep (Stinky, Blue, Fluff, Princess, Curious Georgianna, Bruno, Eeyore, Baby, Masquerade, No Name I, and No Name II) call Montana’s Gallatin Valley home.