We are surrounded by sounds. Take a moment and listen. What do you hear? As I type this article, I hear the buzz of my computer, the clicking of the keys on my keyboard, the hum of traffic outside my window, wind blowing through the trees, and muffled voices in the next office.
Some sounds are strange and puzzling and we don’t know where they are coming from. We strain our ears to see if we can figure out the source of the noise, or we go to investigate and determine if what we hear is cause for alarm or no big deal. Other sounds are very familiar. We know exactly who is talking in the adjacent room, we recognize the creak of the floor or the squeak of the door, we know the ringtone of our cell phone, and the way our car sounds as we drive down the road.
Some new sounds have been heard at our farm over the past several weeks. A ewe, affectionately known as Big Mama, and her triplets – Fluffy, Petunia, and Tiny – have taken up residence at our humble homestead. Their presence has been accompanied by a chorus of bleating sounds. Hearing Big Mama’s deep “BAA” as she calls to her babies and the babies responding with their soft soprano “baa” is just precious. I love listening to them.
I have grown familiar with their cries. I can tell when they are relaxed and having a friendly conversation, and also when Big Mama senses danger and is shouting a warning to her babes. I am tuned to the baas of the babies telling me that they are hungry and happy to see a bottle in my hand, and also when they are freaking out because they can’t get to their mama.
The sheep have also become accustomed with sounds in their new environment. They tolerate the whimpering and barking sounds of the dog (as long as he doesn’t come too close), they mostly ignore the traffic sounds on the highway, and they barely lift their heads from munching the lush grass when an airplane takes off from the nearby runway.
And they know my voice. I talk to them when I’m opening the barn door so as not to startle them, and speak softly to the lambs as they suck down their bottles. I reassure Big Mama when entering her pen and she has come to realize that I am not a threat to her or her babies. She has even gotten comfortable enough to eat grain from my hand.
There are many passages in the Bible that talk about sheep. In some ways, I’m not excited about being compared to an animal, but John chapter 10 has taken on new meaning since I started caring for these little critters. Multiple times, Jesus talks about being the good shepherd and that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. But this doesn’t happen overnight. Knowing someone comes from spending time with them. Trust is built and intimacy is developed. When the sheep came to our farm, they didn’t want anything to do with me. Big Mamma would stomp her feet at me and snort, and the babies would run in every direction. But after time and proving myself to them, they have come to trust me and follow me.
Likewise with Jesus. I am comforted by the fact that he knows me, and I have spent enough time with him to be at ease in his presence and know I can trust him. I know his voice and follow him. Not perfectly, but in an ever growing intimacy. He has proven himself faithful and good all my life and I can’t imagine navigating this world without him. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1