The ninety-nine were just around me. We were laughing, joking and having the best time. We were grazing in the field until something caught my eye. I wandered over to see what the commotion was.
It was a beautiful goat running and jumping and having such fun. The goat was so friendly, so nice! She invited me to hang out with her, so I did. Besides, I was in close proximity to the ninety-nine and the Shepherd.
We started playing tag, exploring, and doing all kinds of things. I lost track of time and before long, I could no longer see the ninety-nine or the Shepherd.
I was a little worried at first, but my friend seemed to know where we were. Plus, we were doing all kinds of things I had never done before. She knew where all the best places were.
I was never allowed to be this free in the herd. My friend, the goat, seemed so carefree. She seemed so open to what lay ahead.
We walked all over and ate all kinds of things the Shepherd wouldn’t allow us sheep to eat. Then, we started to head for the valley. My friend said it was the best place for real adventure! I remember the Shepherd always told us to stay away from the valley because it was dangerous.
I knew danger, for us sheep, mostly came from other animals and our own foolishness, but I felt I was wise. And, if animals were in the valley would they really eat me? I thought to myself. I started to hesitate and the goat said, “Stop being so sheepish”. I had always been okay with being a sheep until I met the goat. I immediately wanted to prove I could be as much, if not more, of a goat as she was. So, I decided I would lead! To mask my fear, I began jabbering on and on about how great it was to be free and how I was so different from the ninety-nine, and how I did not need a Shepherd. I was doing fine on my own.
After a ways into the valley, I realized my friend the goat was no longer with me. Was this a trap? Was I abandoned? I never really did trust the goat to stick around, but I thought since we shared so much fun together, she might. Now I was by myself in the dark, cold and scary valley. When I finally stopped walking to see where I was, I found my fleece completely filthy. I had cuts all over me, and now I was completely alone. Fear and helplessness overcame me. I would never survive this valley alone. Who did I think I was? I knew when the Shepherd spoke of danger He mostly was referring to venomous snakes, wolves and other ferocious animal. All of which tend to hang out in the valley- I knew this much.
I tried not to panic, but I had no idea where I was , or where I was going. There were multiple entries into the valley, but also multiple twists and turns.
At this point, I did not remember where I had entered and how many turns I had taken. I had been too busy trying to prove how I could make it without the ninety-nine and the Shepherd that I had completely lost my whereabouts. I found a rock, sat down and began to cry.
No sooner had I sat down I heard a noise, a noise I had heard only a few times in my life. I felt sick to my stomach. When I looked to my right, I saw a cobra lunge out of another rock trying desperately to sink his fangs into me. I maneuvered away from the snake during the first and second attack, but by the third attack I had been grazed by its fangs and I knew the venom had entered my system. Had I not eaten whatever I wanted earlier, I would may have been able to escape the last attack.
Things that the Shepherd did were starting to make more sense. I could not think about that now. I was under attack. It was just me and the snake.
Then, all of a sudden, the snake looked up and in mid attack, stopped, looked and slithered the other direction. I was relieved for a second, but then realized that meant something bigger must be awaiting.
Sure enough, I looked and saw a pack of hungry wolves. I was so overwhelmed. I thought to myself, “Why? Why did I wander away? Why didn’t I believe the Shepherd? Why did I allow pride to drive me? I love the other ninety-nine. I love the Shepherd and I know the Shepherd loves me. He always stayed up while we were sleeping to watch out for us. He always protected us. He always loved us even when I didn’t understand that it was love. And I threw it all away for one day.”
I closed my eyes not wanting to look death in the face. I heard the wolves growling. I knew this was the end. I could almost feel the breath of the wolves on my fleece when I heard a shout. My eyes immediately opened. I know that voice. It’s the Shepherd! “Don’t give up” He told me. “I am coming. Try to keep your eyes open”.
The wolves immediately went towards the Shepherd. “NO!” I cried. But I had no strength to even get up. The snake’s venom, although not as much as it could have been, had effected my movements”.
“Ughhh” I heard the Shepherd moan from pain as one of the wolves had taken a bite out of arm. He battled this pack of wolves as they bit, scratched and drew blood from him. One by one he battled them. My heart was so heavy. I knew I had caused the pain the Shepherd endured. I wanted to badly to help but what could I do? I could not even keep my eyes open. I fell asleep.
I was awakened when I felt myself being lifted up. I noticed the valley had become quiet again. I looked to my right and saw the Cobra lifeless body. I looked to the left and saw the Wolves piled high- no longer breathing threats.
The Shepherd had picked me up and placed me on his shoulders. It no longer mattered if there were more snakes- they couldn’t reach me. It did not matter if there were more wolves, they couldn’t touch me. I was with my Shepherd and He could , and had conquered all.
No sooner had we gotten out the valley the Shepherd put me down. He stoked by head for a long time. His eyes were filled to the brim with compassion. Then a deep sadness came to his eyes, He moved his hand from my head to my leg. He looked at me and as soon as I felt pain shooting through my leg, I saw pain shooting through His eyes. He had broken my leg.
I was hurt and confused. Every time I start to understand the Shepherd, there is something else I need to learn about Him. He splinted my leg and then held me close for a long time. He was in no rush. Although my leg hurt so badly, inside all I felt was the Shepherd’s love.
He finally broke the silence with, “It hurts me so badly to hurt you, but I need to keep you close. You wandered off without me. I know this terrain , and I know you cannot make it on your own. I would rather suffer the hurt of disciplining you than to see you taken out by the enemy.
I ONLY discipline those I love, and I love you very much. You are my treasure. You are my joy. I left the ninety-nine to find YOU.
I know your struggle with your identity, and that is why I needed to break your leg to keep you close to me. To show you who you are with me. I love you. Let’s do this together”.
The Shepherd then put me back on His shoulders and brought me back to the herd. I realized then that broken, but on the Shepherd’s shoulders, is the only place I need and want to be.