Historical setting: Along the ridges of the Pyrenees, 6th Century
Nic and I finally make a plan not to make any plan until we see if this neighbor has compassion for this shepherd. Maybe our consciences will bind us here to care for him; or we might find we can continue our journey knowing that the shepherd and all his sheep will be looked after by a caring neighbor. Surely we can’t avoid winter anymore. It is coming now with every breath of wind colder than the last. The black tinge of the hoarey frosts marks the lost growing season, now turned to the bleak and timeless season for waiting.
We leave the donkey and a few supplies that the shepherd will need here in the upper pasture shelter and we pack our remaining supplies and fleeces behind us on our horses as we head north. The young shepherd barely acknowledges our departure. He doesn’t even ask where we are going or even if we will return.
“Nic, did your old tribal priest tell you of the ancient Hebrew adage that ‘the father has eaten sour grapes, and the son’s teeth are set on edge’?”
“I’ve heard that. For all that poor fellow’s fighting words he must have been incapable of standing up to his father’s senseless beatings. No wonder he wanted the leathers from my saddle bindings to make himself a whip.”
“That’s the same thought I had. He wept with his longing for the beatings he will miss. In all his grief and sorrow he yearns for thrashings because, he said, he would know his father ‘noticed him.’
“I imagine only the love of God can loosen this bondage of hurt and lead him beyond the cycle it is.”
“How will he ever notice God’s love? He hasn’t even a notion of a parent’s love.”
Dear God, Are there any simple miracles of love waiting to be scattered down on earth from heaven? Please let the snows of grace fall on this grieving shepherd and his sheep. Amen.
This hilltop I was told is within sight of the neighbors, and here we find the longest view. Directly below us is a small pasture area, with a flock of about twenty sheep being tended by two who are surely these neighbor’s daughters. Not much further to the north is that spiral of hearth-smoke rising from behind a knoll, undoubtedly the home-fires of these neighbors.
(Beyond that… continues Tuesday, December 1)