To see a few pictures of the adventure described below, click on this link:
I thought you might be interested to learn that I’ve started a second career on the side. I’ve become a sheepherder. But not just any kind of sheepherder—I herd sheep on the autobahn in Germany.
Let me explain.
The last two weeks we were in Luxembourg filling in for a pastor on vacation, and taking advantage of our presence there to visit some of our old haunts. When we lived in the Grand Duchy, we loved to slip across the border into Germany and follow the Moselle river up to the city of Cochem. The Moselle follows a picturesque valley of vineyards, forests, and well-tended villages and cities, some with buildings dating back a half millennium or more. Makes me feel as if I’m in a storybook.
This time we decided to go directly to Cochem, spend the night, and follow the river back the next day. So that’s how we found ourselves hurtling up the autobahn, when suddenly traffic slowed, then stopped. What was the problem? As we looked ahead on the road we were shocked to see a little flock of sheep that had wandered onto our two lanes. A few seconds more and there would have been lamb chops flying in all directions (probably hubcaps and fenders as well).
Now they were huddling together in fear as traffic came to a halt just in front of them. I passed and pulled off to the side to help a few others who tried to herd them back towards the guardrail. That was no problem. The problem was that the fleecy airheads didn’t seem to grasp that they could bend down just a little and pass underneath, just as they had done to enter the dangerous area.
Sprechen sie deutsch?
One of my fellow shepherds was telephoning and she jabbered something to me in German. I have an extensive German vocabulary. It consists of “Jah!” and I usually say it a lot while shaking my head “yes” when I’m in Germany. No, actually I can do a bit better than that. I think she was calling the police and asking me what the closest town was. “Jah!”
Finally, though, the deed was done and our hairy intruders passed to the other side of the rail. I felt like “Babe.”
“Well done, pig.”
You know what amazed me? It was the lack of complaint of the huge traffic jam of people who waited patiently while we “Little Bo Peeped” the sheep out of the road. No honking. No yelling. No signs of impatience. There just seemed to be a lot of compassion for those poor, lost sheep. But I ask you, were those sheep so worthy of compassion?
A bit farther up the autobahn we saw a huge herd of sheep in a field next to the road on the other side. That was probably where our little varmints came from. I tried to imagine what had happened. “Hey guys. We’re never going to find anything fresh to eat here,” a rare leader among them might have said. “There’s thousands of us. And these others keep tromping on my grass. It’s kind of stomach turning when you try to eat it. I’m getting out of here.”
“Are you sure it’s alright?” blink nine other sheep nearby who hear him. “Sure, I saw a gap that leads to the best pastures you could ever dream of back up yonder. Come on follow me. Let’s get out of here while no one is looking.”
“Well, if you say so …”
So there go ten sheep, slinking away from the multitude. Sneak, sneak. “Baaaaaah!” “Shut up!” Sneak, sneak, sneak. “Baaaah!” “Be quiet.”
Until finally they pass through an opening under the autobahn and end up, you know where. I ask you, did they really deserve our compassion?j
When we finally arrived in Cochem, I saw a tourist bus that was evidently lost and had tried to turn into a narrow street. Traffic was partially blocked and at least two of the motorists gave the harried bus driver an impatient, “hoooonk!” as they made their way around him. “People have more compassion for sheep than they do for each other,” I remarked to my wife.
Unfortunately that’s true. I read an article in the paper this week and the columnist talked about the cruel way some animals are kept in a tiny cage before they are slaughtered for our tables. I agreed but couldn’t help but think that this same man would favor taking the lives of unborn babies. Hmmm…
Some men’s hearts are touched when they see a lady crying from frustration in a movie but they explode in anger when their own wife weeps. Some ladies are ready to give their favorite movie stars a second chance but they don’t extend the same favor to the person that they’ve pledged to live their lives with. Some people are all smiles to those they work with and all frowns to those they live with.
We suffer from selective compassion. I’m glad God isn’t like that, aren’t you? He wants to express His character through us:
“Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 31-32, The Message).
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Col. 3:12-14, The Message).
If you live that way you’ll be smarter than a sheep.
“We look at our watches; God looks at the calendar.” Andy Stanley