A Facebook poster attributed this story to Sheila Walsh having written about a peculiar sad occurrence in some sheepfolds. There have also been YouTube accounts of this happening with lambs. As reported, every once in a while, an ewe will give birth to a lamb and reject it. There are many reasons an ewe might do this. If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may even kick the newborn away. Once an ewe rejects one of lambs, she will not change her mind. Such a little lamb will hang its head so low that it looks like something is wrong with its neck. Its spirit is broken. These lambs are called “bummer lambs.” Unless the shepherd intervenes, the lamb will die, rejected and alone, as the FB post notes.
“So, do you know what the shepherd does? The shepherd takes the rejected little bummer lamb into his home, hand-feeds it and keeps it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with blankets and hold it to his chest so the bummer can hear his heartbeat. Once the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock. But that sheep never forgets how the shepherd cared for him when he was rejected. When the shepherd calls for the flock, guess who runs to him first? That is right, the bummer sheep. He knows the shepherd’s voice intimately. It is not that the bummer lamb is loved more, it just knows intimately the one who loves it. It’s not that it is loved more, it just believes it because it has experienced that love one on one. So many of us are bummer lambs, feeling rejected and broken in life. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He cares for our every need and holds us close to His heart so we can hear His heart beat. We may be broken but we know how loved by the Shepherd. We recognize his voice and we run to be near Him! #imabummerlamb ✝️💜” (attributed to author Sheila Walsh, “Loved Back To Life”)
Human babies that are not nurtured have been known to similarly dwindle and die in environments that were overcrowded and in which their basic needs for physical and emotional survival were not met. I’ve often felt that God creates some of us with a profound depth of loneliness in our souls to draw us more closely to himself. Perhaps this is how God crafts some of his most devoted disciples….. simply by his choice of our families and circumstances of our births and how we feel nurtured within them or do not.
God is called in scripture The Lifter of My Head. The shepherd David, in Psalms 3:3 says, “ But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.” Ironically, David is fleeing the rebellion of his own son, Absolom. In this imprecatory psalm, he expresses what many have felt in the grief of a breech within the intimate relationship between parents and children. Though now the role is a reversal of what he, a shepherd in his youth, no doubt would have observed and ministered to as a good shepherd. Only a good shepherd can fill the deep cavernous void of pain of loneliness and abandonment that some try to fill with so many other things of this world when relationships that should have been there aren’t. The feeling of loneliness or abandonment may be brought on by real neglect, absence, or abuse or it may be the burden of a wounded/sensitive spirit that perceives life from a very young, immature perspective and yearns for more than a parent is able or equipped to provide. Either way, the pain is felt deeply and will remain until the Good Shepherd takes the bummer sheep into his own loving arms and nurtures it back to life.
In nurturing families too much attention can stunt growth and foster unhealthy dependence on parents or others in such a cavernous, needy soul. As one pastor used to say, “The Holy Spirit’s presence brings the right balance. Without it one can fall off either side of the boat.” In parenting, we are not the only factor or necessarily the determinative factor in how a child experiences life…… lonely or happily social, independent or co-dependently clingy, naturally sensing and trusting God or relentlessly rebellious and searching for proof. God’s purpose and plan for the child and how God will use the child to mold us is far more determinative than anything we will have said, done, or been through our own initiative. No matter our mistakes, God IS the redeeming Good Shepherd who brings our little lambs along in life according to his timing and purpose when we are inexplicably or blatantly incompetent, incapable or absent. We are merely surrogates for a little while anyway. If we all saw our role as parents to direct our children to their True Parent- God- like I imagine Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth and Zechariah did, we might raise children with hearts more like Jesus and John the Baptist!
A study group read Luke 1 last week and, once again, I was reminded of the extraordinary ways in which Mary and Elizabeth’s lives intertwined through miraculous conceptions, pregnancies, and births. And as an aging grandmother reflecting on people like Sarah, Naomi, Leah, Rachel, Hannah, Tamar, and other women in the Bible, I am reminded how often our status as parents and our relationships and responsibilities as parents make such a difference in the lives of our children and generations that follow. It’s frightening to me now as I look back, to consider how much worse off I might have left my own children but for the grace and protection of God. But, as I tell the women with broken lives to whom I am called to minister, “Do you believe that God knows what it will take to heal you? Do you believe that God loves your children even more than you possibly could? Do you believe that there is still time for God to bring reconciliation to your life and to theirs? Can you trust that God has a plan and purpose for each generation and desires to end the cycle of pain and brokenness?” But even when it does occur, God will not allow the pain to be wasted, if we will surrender it to him, but will use it to draw the suffering bummer lamb closer to his own heart and will make a way for that precious one to know a special place of joy in hearing his voice and running ahead of the rest to greet him! #imabummerlamb ✝️💜