Baa, baa black sheep have you any wool?
Yes sir, Yes sir, three bags full.
One for my master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.
There once was a certain sheepfold in a certain place at a certain time. Within this certain fold, lived a very black sheep. While a lamb, the condition of his wool had never troubled him. In fact, he hadn’t thought of his wool at all. However, as he grew, he began to pay attention to stories about a marvelous Great Shepherd who often came to the gate to choose sheep on shearing day. There was much debate among the sheep about just who this man was and what going with him might mean.
The more Black Sheep heard about the Great Shepherd, the more he wanted to hear. Then, the more he heard, the more he recognized the terrible condition of his wool. He vowed to keep it clean. He began to avoid the kind of rough play in the places of the fold that left his wool clumped by dirt and nettles. He would sleep only in the pure grassy places and graze only with the cleanest sheep. He would ask others for help to extract the stubble that worked in close to his skin, and he would wash himself once--sometimes twice--a day in the stream.
Alas, to his great sorrow, no matter what he tried, Black Sheep could not keep his wool clean, and he most certainly could not change its color. His life became hateful to him, and he longed for a way to be free from demands he could not keep. He marveled at many of the other sheep who constantly bragged about their quality wool. One day he went to a neighbor, imploring, “How do you keep your wool so white?”
“Ah, Black Sheep, you are asking an important question. You aren’t working hard enough, my friend. You have to do all the right things and stay out of all the wrong places.”
“But I HAVE tried that, and it does not seem to change a thing. There is dirt everywhere in this fold, and . . . and no matter how many times I bathe in the stream, my wool remains as black as ever.”
“I don’t know what else to tell you. This is all I know to do. Perhaps, the Great Shepherd will understand. Perhaps, he will know how hard you have tried. When he comes, you can tell him. Maybe that will be good enough.”
Shearing day came. Black Sheep went with the others to the gate, knowing the terrible condition of his wool. His shame was great, but so was his longing to see the Great Shepherd. He knew he wouldn’t be chosen, but he proposed in his heart that seeing the Shepherd might teach him how to keep his wool clean. He lingered at the back, until he heard a voice calling him. It was the Shepherd's voice.
“Come to me, Black Sheep.”
“He’s going to send me away forever,” he said to himself. “Perhaps, I should hide.” But, he knew running away was not possible; he had to have answers. Black Sheep went forward, his head hanging low, his eyes weeping bitter tears.
“I came for you, today.” Black Sheep felt the words as much as he heard them.
“Oh, Master, my wool is a mess. It is black and dirty. I am so sorry. You deserve more,” Black Sheep cried at the Shepherd’s feet.
It was then that the Master gathered Black Sheep into his arms, declaring, “I am the Great Shepherd. I have always known you, and today I came for you. Know this--all of my sheep have dirty wool. Before, you only heard stories about me. Today, I am carrying you to a new fold and giving you a new name. I used my blood to purchase you. While I gather more of your brothers and sisters and continue to prepare a place for all of you, you will know and love me more and more. I came for you, not your wool. I only take yours so that you can wear mine. One day you’ll have your own again.”
Black Sheep leaned into His Shepherd’s chest and relaxed into cleansing spasms of tears. He knew he was where he belonged. Finally.
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