by Jill Larsen
Once there was a little sheep named Lily. She knew the shepherd loved her very much, and so she always stayed as close to him as she could.
So she was with him one day when a giant, smoke breathing beast came from the bottom of the mountain, puffing and chugging straight for the sheep’s pasture.
In fear the sheep ran away, until the shepherd came and told them it was nothing to be afraid of. It was just a man-made machine that made roads. A road was being built that would pass right by their pasture.
It took a few days to work up enough nerve, but finally Sage, an elderly sheep, went closer. The others followed until they were near the fierce machine.
For days men worked, and more fierce machines came, until one night everything went silent and the men went home for the evening and a peaceful silence fell over the mountain.
Sage and his followers approached the new road. Sage was the first to put his front hoof gingerly into the new road. Instead of a firm road, it was a warm, soft pile of goo.
“It’s warm,” Sage said, putting his next foot in. A couple other brave sheep put in their front hooves as well.
Suddenly, from behind, the Shepherd called, “Get out of there now!”
The sheep, startled, jumped back. Rarely did the Shepherd ever raise his voice.
The Shepherd came forward and spoke gently to them, “Don’t put your feet in the tar. It will hurt you.”
The sheep nodded their agreement and left, talking amongst themselves.
When they were a safe distance from the Shepherd, they held a meeting.
Sage lifted up his two front hooves, showing black shoes melded to him.
“I love my new shoes,” he said.
The other sheep looked enviously at his black front-footed shoes.
“Do you think the Shepherd really knows what he’s talking about? It doesn’t hurt and he said if we touched it we would be hurt. I think he’s mistaken.”
Many of the other sheep bleated their agreement, and the tar-hooved sheep agreed that it didn’t hurt.
“I say we go back,” Sage whispered. “The nights are getting colder and the new road is warm.”
Many of the sheep nodded their agreement, and so quietly they snuck back to the road. Lily said fearfully, “I think you should listen to the Shepherd. What if it does hurt you?”
But Sage just looked at Lily and said, “Don’t be so hateful. Just accept us for who we are. We like to do this.”
Lily hung her head sadly, and the other sheep went on their way.
That night, in the light of the moon, Sage and his followers marched through the tar, coating their feet with the tar, before falling asleep happily in the grass.
The next day there was a lot of raucous as the workers returned to work to find their ruined tar.
Sage and his followers watched as the Shepherd paid the men money to pay for what they’d done. He looked sadly at Sage and the others.
Sage just glared at the Shepherd, “You said it would hurt us.” He said. “You lied.”
“No,” the Shepherd said. “I didn’t lie. Already I have used up all my earnings.”
“Well, that’s your problem, it didn’t hurt us.” Sage said ungratefully. “Anyway, those men should share with us anyway. Why should they get all the tar? I think they are being hateful and purposely trying to leave us out of all the fun.”
The Shepherd looked at them sadly, and knowing nothing he could say would change their minds, he remained silent. He could lock them up in a shed, but the Shepherd knew forcing them to do the right thing would only make them more angry.
That night, Sage and his followers slept in the tar. They rolled in it and spread it all around, laughing at their appearance.
But by morning their laughter turned to cries of pain and fear. They had hardened into the tar and couldn’t move!
The Shepherd came, and with his shearer he sheared off the sheep until all the tar was sheared off and they ran away, woolless and shivering in the cold.
Then the Shepherd built a hay filled stable where then could huddle together and stay warm. The sheep watched from their new, warm shelter as the Shepherd put on workers clothes and he worked day after day until all the damage was paid for.
After many days, the Shepherd came by Sage. Sage looked at the Shepherd and saw how exhausted he was after working all day on the roads then coming home and working all evening taking care of the sheep.
One of Sage’s followers started to cry. “Shepherd,” he said. “I’m sorry. You’ve had to work so hard for me, because of what I did. I don’t deserve your kindness. And you don’t deserve to pay for what I did. It wasn’t your fault.”
The Shepherd knelt by the sheep and said, “I forgive you and I love you.” And gave the sheep a hug.
Soon all the other sheep, even Sage, began to apologize mournfully as well.
The Shepherd lovingly forgave each of them.
Eventually the road was done and the Shepherd didn’t have to work anymore on the road. The sheep’s wool grew back, and they could run around again. It was a long time before any of them went near the road though.
Some things seem good and right, but if God says they aren’t, they aren’t.
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.