Being a farmer carries with it daily chores and tasks. A few of mine look something like this:
Wash out the water pans the ducks have made a mess of, feed the chickens, gather the eggs, clean out the nest boxes the juvenile roosters have trashed, weed at least some small bit of the garden to keep things from looking totally abandoned, and feed the sheep.
The temptation sometimes is to get in a hurry to do these things and move right on to the next thing. Recently though I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort not to miss the magic.
Cricket, one of our barn cats, reminds me of the importance of this every night. He meets me out by the sheep gate on my way back from making my evening rounds and insists that I take my time by walking right in between my legs. If I get in a hurry he trips me or endangers his own life by laying down right on my feet as I’m walking. It’s pretty comical but he gets his point across. “Slow down and pay attention to me!” How can I refuse him? He endears himself to me with his affectionate language. Soon, I’m sitting in the grass with him, stroking his long and luxurious maine coon coat.
Last night as I was walking back through the pasture in the fading evening light, I felt a gentle nuzzling on my hand. I turned and looked down to see four doe-eyed ewes gazing up at me expectantly. I knelt down and scratched their ears and rubbed their necks as they gathered around me, snuffling softly, and sniffing and nudging me with their noses. Phoebe is so expressive. She is always at the front of the pack and right up in the middle of whatever action is going on. She is usually one of the first to holler when she hears the geese loudly announce that I’m finally up and out of the house in the morning. She opens the gate for me every time as soon as I unlatch it. Sometimes, if she really wants to get my attention or is just plain excited, she playfully head-butts me. (Thankfully it’s never very hard!) I end up laughing and rubbing her behind the ears. This is of course exactly what she wants. Last night, as I drank in the cool evening air and smelled the coats of my beloved sheep, something very magical happened. I had one hand scratching Emily and Violet and Daphne in turn, and one hand around Phoebe’s neck. At that moment, Phoebe stepped in closer to me, putting her chest almost up against mine and placing her head on my shoulder. She just stayed there for a few seconds and sighed quietly in my ear. It is a very special thing to be hugged by a sheep. My heart felt full to the point of spilling over.
“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?… ‘Yes Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’” Jesus’ same thrice-posed question to Peter was met with the similar responses of, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and, “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17) I expect there are several different sermons that could be preached on this passage of Scripture. I have to admit that this is also one that I’ve never really understood very well either. It probably has multiple meanings and maybe one day I’ll understand more of them better. At any rate, being a shepherd and feeding and tending sheep and lambs has caused me to wonder… You can feed sheep and tend to their physical needs and still miss out on the beauty of a relationship with them if you are constantly in a hurry. I guess then it’s only a job, and you haven’t really invested your heart in anything. Maybe one of the reasons Jesus posed this question to Peter three times (besides the plausible and commonly posed theory that Peter had denied Him three times) was so that Peter might truly consider the deeper meaning, the heart as it were, of feeding and tending sheep and lambs. (Or in this case, people…) It’s just a thought. Either way, it’s a good reminder to this farmer to slow down, and not miss the beauty, and the magic, of the relationships that are right in front of me every day.
Whether it’s cats or sheep or people, let us never forget to slow down and pay attention to those that are right in front of us every day. If we take the time to listen and see, this is truly where the magic awaits.