Sometimes I am surprised at what shows up in my mind! And I suspect you have the same thing happen to you. I am not surprised that occasionally I dream strange and odd things. Most normal people I know tell me things like, “last night I had the strangest dream!” I think dreams are our arena for surprises, weirdness, and other abnormal things. But then, we wake up and discover we are normal and begin the day.
But it is those daytime experiences when something odd appears inside my head that make my laugh…laugh at myself. I think I just experienced this. For some reason my pet lamb showed up. His name was Jimmy (I know, this is not very original, but I was only six!). I loved Jimmy…or whatever could pass as love for a six year old farm boy and a lamb.
We did not have very many sheep on our farm. In fact, we did not have them very long; so all my “sheep memories” are young. Jimmy became my pet lamb because his mom---an unnamed ewe---died while giving birth to Jimmy. Now that in itself is a pretty awesome life-learning experience for a little kid. So Jimmy had no mom. And the rams were never to be found when it came to raising the little ones (again a bit like real life in some kids’ lives!). I can smile now that I think I was Jimmy’s parent!
Dutifully, I would go to the barn twice a day when my dad was milking the cows, fill up a Coke bottle with warm milk, stick on a nipple and go feed Jimmy. It took a while to teach this lamb that the Coke bottle would have to suffice for mom! But he learned…and it really was his only option!
He grew and became one of those “cute lambs.” He was so tame that he just stayed in the back yard with the dogs and cats. Every time I left the house, there was Jimmy…always ready to follow along. He became a great pet. He always wanted to play; he was always happy; he was totally devoted. What more could you want from a friend?
But Jimmy was growing in ways I had not calculated---insofar as six year olds can calculate. He sprouted horns. And then, retrospectively I can now say, he experienced hormonal development. My pet lamb fairly quickly grew into a ram! And my little friend became meaner. The one who had docilely followed me now was as likely to butt me as to nuzzle me. Instead of loving him, I became leery of him!
And this is where what shows up in my mind becomes relevant for today. When we were young, we all probably were a great deal like my pet lamb. Who does not love the little ones? They are all cute, cuddly, and beyond cool. But they grow up and sometimes we forget to account for that. After all, we grew up, too. We grow horns (metaphorically, of course). When we become adults, many of us are more likely to butt than to bless. Certainly no one of us is perfect; God knows and so do most of my friends, I am not perfect. Some days I am just a “butter.” And on given days, nearly every one I know can butt me. Sometimes I see it coming; sometimes I am surprised. However, I am never surprised that every person I know might butt me at some point.
So how is this spiritual? In deep ways I believe it is spiritual. In a sneaky way I have just re-told the first three chapters of Genesis---but from the angle of sheep. In the beginning all was good. There were Jimmy and me, just like there were Adam and God. The relationship was pure and the love unsullied. But this is not guaranteed. Time sows seeds of potential change. For Jimmy it was normal sheep development; for Adam it was exercising a bad choice. Jimmy became mean; Adam became miserable. In both cases, Paradise was lost.
As John Steinbeck wrote, we are all now living east of Eden. Every one of us is capable of blessing and butting. I wish that were not true of me. And I really wish that were not true of you! But that’s reality.
So we need to make sure there is space for grace…for understanding…for forgiveness...for trying to be better. We humans can manage that with each other. Mean rams? That’s a different story!