‘Mary had a little lamb’: A fair tale

I don’t actually know her name, but it probably was not Mary. And the lamb? It was an adult sheep. Nonetheless, the headline seems to fit rather well.

This story took place at the Fulton County Fair, and was related by my pastor the Sunday after the fair ended. He was witness to this happening.

The young girl was a first-year 4-H member, so it was her first year to show an animal, her first experience in the sales ring when 4-H project animals are sold.

It was all new to her.

All was going well as she entered the sales ring with her sheep. But then the sheep looked around. Startled by the crowd and the unfamiliar surroundings, the sheep took its most natural evasive action – flight. The lead was jerked from the little girl’s hands and the sheep fled across the arena.

Almost immediately, many men flocked into the ring to assist this youngster in capturing her sheep. The arena got noisier with the excitement and the sheep reacted in fear.

For one of her age and inexperience in this sort of situation, this child exhibited an unexpected calm. Shooing the would-be helpers away, she took charge of the situation.

Going to her knees, using hand motions and body language to communicate with her sheep, she quietly called it to come to her. The sheep responded to the voice of the one it had come to love and came right to her.

The sale continued without further disturbance.

Had she practiced this recall as she trained her animal? Or had the child and the sheep simply bonded so tightly through long hours of being together? The sheep sought the safety of the one it knew.

The “come” command is not an easy one to teach and solidify. Kelly learned it as a puppy but has never been very good about it. I think she responds less well now in her mid-life years than she did when I first got her. That’s probably my fault. I have let her learned commands diminish simply by lack of use and practice.

She does respond quickly when she determines there is a good reward in the immediate future. I don’t mean a treat. A good reward is going to church on Sunday, going to the nursing home to work on Monday, a trip to town – the kinds of things we do together.

Jesus keeps the “come” command in front of us all the time, too. He wants to do things together with us.

First, He calls us to come to Him for salvation. Then He calls “come” to learn more of Him and His interest in our lives. He instructs us in the way we should go. Then when we’ve learned to walk with Him and respond to “come,” He sends us out to invite others to come to Him as well. He keeps saying “come” as we live our daily lives. He calls us back to Himself for a time of fellowship with Him, for instruction and for loving correction.

On the cross, He spread His arms wide, inviting each and every one of us to take shelter in His love. Have you come to Him? There’s no better time than right now.

Won’t you, like the little girl’s sheep, come? Respond to the One who, in love, calls you to safety even in the midst of a frightening situation.