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The Rut and the Grave

Picture it: Little new born lambs, so joyful, so playful – skipping around, enjoying every moment of the day. Then your gaze turns to their mothers: Poster examples of depression. No joy, no running, no skipping. Heads hanging as they walk: slowly and listlessly.

Watching this scene on my family's farm I wondered: ‘What happened to you? What robbed you of your joy? How did you go from joyfully leaping and playing to being so joyless? You’re never alone, you’re well taken care of, you can roam around in relative freedom, you even get treats at night. So why?’

Then it came about that my family asked me to take care of their sheep while they were on vacation. I looked forward to the experience, my first time as a shepherdess! By now there were only grown, depressed sheep left. Come night time I had to get them into a small circular encampment in the middle of their large camp. This smaller camp had a high fence so they will be safe from the coyotes at night. The only way to get the sheep into the small encampment was to give them feed cubes inside the small camp - their treat for the day. Something they apparently look forward to all day long for they nearly trampled me to death as I was trying to fill the troughs. After 3 days of this I had enough and came up with a plan: I will not call out to them as I approach and will run as fast as I can to the little camp and shut the gate behind me before they can get in. It worked!

Feeling a bit peeved about their previous rude treatment of me, I decided to take my sadistic time. I first cleaned out the troughs, then very slowly and with great noise and show filled the troughs – all the while the sheep were circling the little camp like the Israelis did Jericho of old. Round and round they circled, bleating as they went. Finally I decided they were punished enough and I flung open the gate. What happened next had me mortified and then mystified: One by one those large grown sheep leaped through the gate into the camp. I didn’t know such large sheep could jump that high and I wondered in a panic how I was going to explain to my family that all their sheep broke their legs?

But they all landed safely and happily started feeding. ‘What in the world just happened?’ I wondered. And then I had my answer to the question I had about where their joy went: The routine of their lives robbed them of it.

As little lambs everything was new. But then one day rolled into the other, looking exactly as the one before. The same day over and over. But the one day there was something new, their joy was instantly back and they leaped again.

Imagine that, if life in a rut robs sheep of joy, how much more will a rut rob us of our joy, our zest for life?

There is much wisdom in the saying: There is only a difference in depth between a rut and a grave.

So when last did you do something for the first time? Something new? Something that excited your mind and imagination, invigorated your zeal for life, and made your spirit leap with joy?

May you live a life filled with new adventures and experiences.



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