Oh We Like Stinky Smelly Sheep

Sheep stink.

Literally and figuratively.

They really do. We always picture sheep so soft and sweet, but in reality they use the bathroom and then step it and carry it with them all day. Who wants to cuddle with that?

My brother-in-law Dave is a shepherd.

He lives on a communal farm in England where they care for marginalized people. He is both a chaplain and a shepherd.

My family and I have learned some things from him about sheep.  My husband and my oldest son have been to visit him and they were invited to tend the sheep with him.

And sheep stink.

It’s not just the literal stink, they also are simply tough animals to tend. They are stubborn and stupid. My husband Tim fought with one sheep who refused to be led to greener pastures. She preferred to ram into a wall rather than follow the shepherd’s staff.

She refused to be led to greener pastures. She preferred to ram into a wall rather than follow the shepherds’ staff.

Isn’t that just like me?

I am a sheep who desperately needs a shepherd. I do not have my act together. I do not know everything. And I am weak and vulnerable, and susceptible to all kinds of danger.

It’s not just a nice idea. I really need a shepherd.

And yet, sometimes I prefer to ram into a wall rather than follow my Good Shepherd’s plan. Why do I struggle to trust that He knows a better way, or that His heart is always for me?

It is tough work to be a shepherd. The number of details that go into caring for sheep is astounding. Dave taught us how he has to daily move their feeding trough because if he doesn’t, they end up using the bathroom by it and, well, you can imagine what kinds of problems ensue. He has to watch their hooves, track the health of each sheep, move them daily to different plots of land. Shepherding requires intimate knowledge of each sheep and careful tending. It requires a whole lot of sacrifices on the part of the shepherd.

I think about how I can be a stinky, stubborn sheep. Then, my heart goes to my Good Shepherd. And I can not believe how much He loves me.

A good shepherd knows His sheep. My Good Shepherd knows me down to the dark places of my heart. And he loves me even there. Have you ever considered that He is the only One who shares every moment of your life with you? He has been with you.  Always. He calls you by name. You are one his favorites. “He calls his own by name and He leads them out.” (John 10).

A good shepherd knows it will require careful tending. My Good Shepherd cares about every.single.detail.  He tends me when my heart is desperately lonely. He tends me when I am anxious about our finances. He dances with joy with me when life is sweet. And he gently shepherds me when my heart is broken.  “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34).

A good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. My Good Shepherd did not hold back when it required the costliest price. He loved me that much. How can I doubt His love now? “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” (John 10).

A good shepherd leads his sheep to life. My Good Shepherd has good planned for me, even when I can’t see it. I can trust His heart. I know He will get me home. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23).

And I think I am beginning to understand this truth: there is no other place I want to be than to be tucked in tightly to my Good, Good Shepherd. He is the ultimate green pasture, the still waters that restore my soul.  I don’t want to ram my head into a wall like that sheep. I want to stick close to the One who loves me more than I can imagine.

In God’s crazy economy, somehow He entrusts people into our care, doesn’t He? He asks us to be about the work of shepherding some of His flock.

As we shepherd those He gives us, oh may we imitate our Good Shepherd. May we truly know our sheep and be willing to lay down our very lives for them. And may we lead them to LIFE, to the Good Shepherd Himself.

What a gift to be part of His flock.

We are one loved lot of stinky sheep.

How have you been like a sheep recently? What comfort have you found in your Shepherd? Who is He asking you to shepherd? What does that look like?


  1. Keri November 26, 2017

    This goes right along with what we have been studying with the ladies on our team. I, too, am easily distracted and oh so stubborn, but the father continues to be faithful. I have found great comfort in John 10:9-10 where J says, I am the gate! I had never remembered this I am statement before. Lysa Terkeurst’s, “Finding I am” study has some profound truths. In the chapter on Shepherds she explains what it means that He is the gate. In ancient days the pen for the sheep is stone walls with no gate. No gate! What kind of pen is that? The shepherd always had to be PRESENT to protect from the predators. He had to sleep in the doorway to keep the sheep in and danger out. He is our protector and ever present. This is comfort to me on this daily journey of faith.

    1. Ashley Felder November 27, 2017

      Same team, same study. 🙂 Today’s reading was about how some shepherds do all the things wrong, but THE Shepherd does them all right. He leads us to the best patch of grass to feed from, the clearest streams to drink from, and then leads us to rest. He binds up the broken and strengthens the sick and seeks the lost. (Ezekial 34) I’m thoroughly enjoying learning about sheep and shepherds, so yes, perfect timing for your post! I imagine your BIL has daily reminders of how hard the Shepherd works to keep His flock together! May we remember, too.

  2. Renee A Aupperlee November 26, 2017

    I love this, Keri! I did not know that about the ancient sheep pens — I love the image of the shepherd sleeping in the doorway to protect his sheep. What a profound truth about our Good Shepherd who is “our protector and ever present.” Amen and amen! Thanks so much for sharing this. Blessings, sister.

  3. Spring November 27, 2017

    Thanks so much for sharing this. What a good reminder of what a good shepard we have, and how we (i) can be like a sheep STINKY!! We just stepped into a new ministry as a family and I am constantly asking GOd the last two questions you have. I hope I continually ask them.

    1. Renee November 27, 2017

      Thanks so much for writing, Spring. We do indeed have such a kind, generous, GOOD shepherd. Asking for His presence to flow through you as you shepherd the sheep He brings to you. May you enjoy sitting with Him today, sister.

  4. Renee November 27, 2017

    Thanks, Ashley! I love that you guys are doing this study together — I so wish I could join you guys! As you said, may we remember how deeply we are loved by our Shepherd and what it cost Him to protect us and ultimately get us home. May you have a sweet week of soaking in His presence, friend!

  5. Kathy Vaughan November 27, 2017

    In my previous life – before I was a M – my husband and I raised sheep. Oh, my goodness, are they stubborn and, can I say, just plain stupid sometimes! Even though I loved raising sheep – especially lambing season, hard as it was – it’s true that they can be so frustrating at times. Besides the things already mentioned, they can tend to herd up and fight against what the shepherd is trying to do to help them, to try to escape the safe pastures they are in for “greener” ones, to fight against the shepherd’s care when they are injured, and to panic when the shepherd has everything under control and they are perfectly safe. Knowing how sheep behave has given me great insight into being a sheep in need of a shepherd. It’s been said that comparing us to sheep is not a complement – but I see in my own life that it is such an apt comparison sometimes. Thank God for the heart of the Good Shepherd, who sees me and knows me, in all of my stupidity and stubbornness and dirtiness, and yet still loves me and wants to tenderly care for me.

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