Sunday, July 10, 2011

A New-Found Respect for My Shepherd

 Its been an incredible year. A new adventure that had both challenges of mind, body and faith. Like all new adventures, this year has come with pain and loss as well as with new beginnings.
Its 7 months into the year and I have found inspiration for my second blogpost for 2011. (I know it has been a very long time but I really felt the need to focus on myself and settle down into my new life at Onderstepoort- Veterinary Teaching Institute- as I begin the next phase of my journey to accomplish my dream)

So here we are, in July, and it was in my midyear exams that I found some inspiration for this post...
As part of my syllabus this year I have had to do a module that involves the handling, behaviour and welfare of production animals.. (sheep, pigs, goats and cattle---basically just dealing with everyday aspects and routine procedures that occur on farms).
 ***quite ironic that in my 3 years of veterinary study I'm far closer to being a farmer than an everyday vet but hey, we all must start somewhere. :)***
  As our midyear exam for this module we were required to undergo our first ever oral and practical exam. These exams occured over three days with one species per day (cattle, pigs and sheep respectively). The nerves amongst my years block in res were certainly tangible as these much dreaded exams drew nearer and nearer...

We were all rather terrified at the prospect of having to take our exams orally, especially when combined with the handling and the performance of potentially painful procedures on rather temperamental and untame animals.
Thankfully though, our fears were largely unwarranted, with the lecturers being very understanding and helpful and the animals largely cooperative--the pigs literally slept through my exam---that is, except for the sheep...

When you imagine a sheep I'm sure a cute little image of little-bo-peep's-pet jumping over a fence as you drift into sleep pops into mind but in reality sheep are flighty, instinct-driven, rather smelly and fairly strong, 50kg (about 110lbs) animals that have little trust of humans...
Upon arriving at my sheep exam, I was asked to discuss and illustrate the basic restraining of a sheep, in theory a very simple task. I managed to procure my sheep, much to its disgust, and restrain it fairly well (restraining it involves taking hold of the animal above its leg and pulling it backwards following which you place your hand around its muzzle and the other hand in its flank). But by this stage the sheep was no longer interested in doing anything I wanted it to do. So when I was asked to restrain the animal as if it were a goat, (which involves backing it into a corner) I performed the textbook "reverse" method... but to no avail. The incredibly stubborn sheep had made up its mind not to listen to me, refusing to budge from its position and even laying down right in front of my lecturer! Eventually I ran out of time in my exam and a disgruntled, out of breath me had to admit defeat to a sheep...

Which brings me to my point...
Whilst battling the sheep I was faced with the image of a "shepherd" attempting to attend to a sheep that was too stubborn to listen. I guarantee that I had the best interests of the sheep in mind and I knew exactly the path that would be easiest and most helpful to the sheep but the poor animal stubbornly refused to trust me.

I know that in my relationship with the Lord I am very often like that sheep. God knows what is right for me, He knows what path I should take that would be for my best interest but sometimes I just refuse to move and stubbornly resist change. So often the path that God wants for me will take me away from the "other sheep" and often, like a sheep, I fight what He wants from me and instead try to follow the flock. Sometimes its fear of what I don't know (I'm sure the sheep was most afraid that if she'd listened to me she may have had some nasty needle stuck into her), and sometimes, I'm afraid, it's mistrust of the sheperd.
As a vet (or a shepherd), I need to know what the animals need. I need to know what is in their best interest. If a painful procedure is required, I have to be able to justify it as being in the best interest of the animal...
Isn't it the same with God? He knows what is right for us, He knows it may be hard or painful, but the path that He wants us to take is entirely for our own good and His glory.
Knowing how helpful and nice it would have been for both the sheep and I had the sheep cooperated, it makes me really want to try harder to listen to Him. 

I passed my exams in that module. At the time it was a tad humbling and humiliating, but I can appreciate the lesson it brought me. And now, when my saviour is described as a shepherd, I can smile and have a new found respect for Him.


  1. I'm so proud that you passed your exams. I was actually thinking of you a couple of weeks ago and am glad to hear from you. I know that you spend your life reading right now BUT I've read some great books by Phillip Keller 1st) A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 and 2nd) A Shepherd looks at THE Good Shepherd and HIS sheep. Both are excellent reads and quite insightful. He used to be a shepherd in Australia I think.
    Anyway, great post and glad to hear from you. Blessings to you from the holler...

  2. Dear Bobz,
    What a wonderful post! You write so beautifully and I am so proud of you. You are a shining light to many people (including me). Thank you for sharing your insightful wisdom with us.
    I love you lots and so too does your Shepherd.
    With love

  3. Please keep posting, this is an excellent blog with very interesting and needed material.