I didn’t grow up in a farming family, but ever since I married into one I’ve had to learn about it pretty quick. They raise lamb, and it’s been quite the experience getting to know the ins and outs of life on the farm. This past week we had our annual Open Barn, where we invite the public in to see how our operation works. This got me thinking about my journey learning about sheep and raising them, especially since there are a ton of references to sheep and shepherding in the Bible. As my old English teacher would say, anything that gets repeated is worth remembering. Since shepherding has such a strong presence in the Bible, allow me to share my observations from my time on the farm:
-Sheep tend to stick together, and normally aren’t particularly motivated to move. Without someone to guide (or push) them, they will stay put.
-They freak out when things change. Even when it’s a good change, like moving them from the barn out into the pasture, they resist it until they can be shown that the change is for the better.
-We shear the ewes a couple weeks before they give birth, because if we didn’t, they wouldn’t have an understanding of how cold their lambs are (especially since they give birth in February). If we didn’t make them a little uncomfortable, they wouldn’t realize what those with less wool are enduring.
-On their own, they are perfectly sustainable. Between their mother’s milk and the grass outside, the lambs would grow just fine on their own. However, we intervene to give them feed and supplements that help foster their growth and allow them to grow healthier than if we just left them alone.
-Lambs don’t actually mind being held- if you make them feel secure after you start holding them. If they begin to feel uncomfortable, or that you might drop them, they’ll start to wiggle and squirm to try and get away to find a place that does offer them more security and safety.
-The lambs at our farm are born black, but their wool changes to white over time. They do this to adapt to their surroundings (or at least the wild ones do), but it also means that as they grow, they are constantly changing.
-They learn habits and rhythms. Believe me, they know when it’s time to eat. But they also know who to trust. They could care less if I walk into the barn, because they don’t know me as well. When my father-in-law comes in, there’s a much different reaction, because he’s the one that routinely feeds and cares for them.
I think there is wisdom to be found here, both for leaders trying to care for their flocks and for individuals trying to live in a community. What do you think? What can we learn from a modern-day sheep farm that helps us understand the Bible? Let me know what you think!