Believe it or not, it gets cold in Alabama in the wintertime. We may not have much snow but it still can get cold with bitter winds. On occasion I pull out my long red wool coat or my wool sweater from Ireland with the countryside scene of sheep on it. The warmth of the wool shields me from the chill of the wind serving its purpose well.
Wool has a unique quality. Surprisingly, it cannot be imitated or artificially manufactured. Wool can only come from sheep that grow it. Not only is it used by humans for sweaters and scarves but its usefulness is shared protecting the sheep from harsh winter weather.
Sheep are typically sheared by the shepherd in the summer season to ready the sheep for the upcoming winter. Shearing must occur at the right time. As you can see in the photo, too much wool prevents the sheep’s body heat from dissipating causing discomfort and difficulty in movement. Sometimes the sheep must be sheared in the winter when too much dirt, grass, and water has collected deep in the wool. If this mud-like substance were to freeze next to the skin, the sheep would be harmed.
The first ever shearing of a young sheep results in much kicking and bleating. The shepherd may literally have to sit on the sheep but he doesn’t let the tantrum distract him from the business at hand. He goes about his shearing slowly, thoroughly, and methodically. The second shearing is significantly calmer. Why? Because the sheep has learned that the shepherd cares for it. They develop a trust that allows him to do what is necessary when it is necessary (reference from All We Like Sheep by Mary Glynn Peeples).
You could say that shearing is done as a protective measure with a productive side effect. The sheep is more comfortable and safer from getting caught in briars, branches, and fences. It is also prepared to face the weather. On the productive side, the fleece that has been harvested is useful for a variety of things from clothing to fertilizer pellets.
I see that as such a beautiful analogy for us as His sheep. We are shorn for the better and what is cut away may be used as a testimony or something of value either for ourselves or somebody else. Sheep continually grow wool and must be sheared over and over again year after year. Sound familiar? A shorn sheep is lighter. What covered its body is now removed and there is less weight to carry. Sounding real familiar? And get this – the dirty wool is washed immediately after removal. In fact, sometimes the sheep is washed prior to shearing. Yep, sheep are definitely a good analogy for us.
In summary, God, Our Shepherd, knows when we need shearing. He has the proper tools to trim away the excess weight we carry. Not only does He know what is best for us but He knows the proper timing. He is willing to sit on us and keep clipping while we kick and scream because He loves and cares for us. His love propels Him to take away something we may have grown accustomed to but don’t need or shouldn’t have. When we accept our adaptation and relax in the loving hands of our Shepherd, we can experience the benefit that comes from His shearing. Maybe, just maybe, we can envision it as shear delight!