Historical setting: Along the ridges of the Pyrenees, 6th Century C.E.
One mystery of courage is that it wears many faces rarely as we expect — the human moment between panic and training when the proper response comes forth and a crisis is averted. But doesn’t courage also come in the stoic intensity of a donkey’s stubbornness or the fury of the dog barking away an intruder?
While Nic ran back up to rescue the donkey from a beating, the big white dog awakened from his daily snooze and now has hurried over to side with his fellow critter. From where I stand amid the sheep I see Nic carries the shepherd’s crutch and he is leading the donkey while the shepherd rides on it and the big white dog follows close. As they are walking away the shepherd shouts back instructions to move the sheep to the night pasture at sunset.
“Where’re you g…” My question went unheard and now I’m alone with this many sheep. I know I should know the number of them. Are they one hundred? And should one be missing would I leave them all to search for the one, or is that only a parable describing the Holy?
Dear God, Thank you for taking notice of each critter of us. When it’s you who counts us do you count sheep and donkeys and horses as the same worth as people? Yes, of course, I would suppose so. I mean we’re all part of the fullness of life, though I would suppose the prayers of the donkey have easier answers than my own, or maybe not. Thank you, Dear God, for listening to my complicated human wonders and to my woes as well. Amen.
A large bird circles above and now there are more dark birds. How do they know this shepherd who I am has no gift for this work? It could be there is a needy lamb in this flock and the birds see a frailty I’m overlooking. I try to walk through the flock taking a careful look at each grazing lamb. They do each have their differences, but I see no injury or impairment that would interest an ominous seeker of carrion. By the time I look again at the sky, after counting and inspecting the sun is a bit further across the blue altitude of day and the birds are circling another place across the hills. It could be, they were just flying over. But now I know there are eighty-seven sheep.