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Lessons Learned From My Life with Sheep

The Shepherdess , Hofner, 1866

The Shepherdess, Hofner, 1866

Twelve, thirteen, fourteen .… That can’t be right; I need to count again. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Only fourteen; Where is number fifteen?

The conversation inside my head confirmed that only fourteen sheep were in the pen, and one was missing. My job as the shepherdess required leaving the fourteen to locate the lost sheep. After much searching, unfortunately, I discovered the missing animal curled up at the base of a tree, too sick to come when called, too sick to eat, and too sick to even move. Veterinary attention on my part was necessary.

Life alongside sheep defined my growing up years. It is safe to say that hundreds of sheep were my companions. As a toddler, I recall standing alongside my Daddy as he gently guided my hands to push a baby bottle through a wire fence in order to nourish orphaned lambs on the other side. As a teenager, I remember long, hot hours in the barn preparing for upcoming 4H shows. Until I left home to attend university, my days, months, and years ran through pastures, rivers, feed troughs, vaccinations, and livestock shows.


This unrelenting lifestyle demanded unbelievably hard physical labor. Attention to detail for every individual sheep required rigorous attention. My duties included keeping their environment safe; poisonous weeds had to be eradicated from the pasture. Dangerous predators such as snakes, insects, wild dogs, and disease menacingly lurked, and shortcuts could not be tolerated. Any error on my part resulted in harm for my flock.

Giving an injection while my Daddy held the sheep

Giving an injection while my Daddy held the sheep

Life Lessons Emerged

While I took care of sheep, sheep taught me about life. Through my encounter with hundreds of sheep countless valuable lessons emerged.

  • The sheep were my responsibility; they were utterly dependent on my care.

  • The job demanded individual attention every day for every animal.

  • The sheep would hear me, recognize my voice, and come when called.

  • A daily count of heads, not once but twice, was mandatory. The absence of any animal signaled alarm, and the one individual had to be sought out.

  • These animals could not—absolutely could not—care for themselves.

  • As vulnerable creatures, they could not protect themselves.

  • My sheep never knew what was best for them; overeating caused a constant threat.

  • The flock always had a leader, and the leader stayed closest to me as their shepherd.

  • Personality traits differentiated one animal from another.

  • Any derelict attitude or irresponsibility on my part resulted in harm for the sheep.

  • Simple problems were life threatening; getting stuck on its back rendered the creature helpless and resulted in death.

  • Stubbornness, in particular, brought on challenges.

  • A general group identity did not exist; a personal relationship between sheep and shepherd naturally transpired.


Spiritual Lessons Emerged

Lessons learned decades ago from the sheep pen continue to shed light on my relationship with My Shepherd.

I long to quickly respond to His Voice.

I yearn to thrive under His individual care.

I want to allow Him to meet my needs.

I must believe that He knows what is best for me. I lack awareness of lurking danger.

If I fail to respond when He calls, something is seriously wrong.

Daily contact with Him is essential for my spiritual health.

My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

(John 10:27)

Living With Eternal Intentionality®

When you consider Psalm 23 and John 10, where do you long to grow in intimacy with our Shepherd?

What does it mean to listen to HIm, to let Him lead, to depend on Him for all of your needs?

How would your life be different if you learned to more quickly discern The Voice of The Good Shepherd?

Please offer what you think. Your thoughts bring increased value to this discussion.