“Sheep may safely graze , where the shepherd keeps his watch.”
Trouble was, the shepherd had to be at a local sheep sale. The minute his back was turned, like naughty teenagers, his sheep were off to pastures new, and what a delicious pasture my garden turned out to be.
If I had an immaculate town garden I would probably have been horrified but I was actually delighted to see them for two reasons. They make excellent lawn mowers and prolific fertilizers. (Had they been pigs or goats or cows or deer I wouldn’t have been so welcoming.) I’m sorry, now, that when two shepherdesses arrived to lead them home I didn’t take a photo of them, with their sheep, looking up into the sky, watching for the angels.
I understand why God sent Gabriel to shepherds that first Christmas. Even today, shepherds, chugging around the sheep on their quad bikes, still notice things much more minutely than most of us. They see clearly and listen intently. In their own way they ‘do’ mindfulness without realizing it.
We have had many visitors over the years, who look at the lambs gambolling in spring, and ask why I’m not a vegetarian. In return, I ask them what they think these hillsides would look like without the sheep. How many pet lambs would anyone want? In any case sheep farming is NOT like farming battery hens. Many sheep spend up to eight years roaming these fields—with the occasional garden as a bonus—well fed, well looked after, and with very few worries.*
As for eating lamb, why not? Christ did. Being a carpenter, another carefully chosen occupation by God, He was skilled with His hands and immensely practical. Not only would He have eaten lamb, he probably cooked it as well; after all He cooked fish, which is technically much more difficult to get right.
If you think this description of a sheep’s life is too idyllic here is a picture of a sheep’s main worry! Guess which is the sheep killer.