A Tale of Two Sheep
Miracles happen in the body every day. Among those miracles are the more than 100 billion neurons in the brain. Yep, 100 billion! (Seriously, I have to wonder who counted those and how?) Anyway, the neurons, or nerve cells, are responsible for receiving sensory input from external sources, sending motor commands to our muscles, and relaying chemical and electrical signals. Their miraculous processes result in bodily movements, thoughts, and a beating heart.
Mammalian brains all have the same connectivity and overall structure, but did you know that human and sheep brains have many similarities? Because of that, sheep brains are often used as a model for studying neurological disorders. Of course, there are key differences. One is that the human brain is larger, measuring about 15 centimeters long (almost 6 inches), while a sheepâ€™s brain is about a third of that size. The human brain is also more complex in cognitive function. An obvious difference is the position of the brain. A human brain has a vertical attachment to the spinal column, while a sheep brain is more elongated and horizontal.
A less obvious difference is the olfactory bulb size in sheep versus humans. The olfactory bulb is found at the end of the olfactory nerves, where we get our sense of smell. The olfactory bulb in a sheep is much larger than in the human brain. A humanâ€™s olfactory lobe is less developed because we rely more on other senses like sight and touch. We also use learned behaviors. Sheep rely more on their sense of smell and their instincts.
Lessons to be Learned from Two Sheep
Let me tell you a story about two sheep. Their names are Ray Ray and Lambini. Ray Ray was born with no eyes, but she is able to navigate her world in much the same way that blind humans do. Her heightened senses help, including her sense of smell. She has tracked every nook and cranny of her world by feel and smell and can beeline her way to the shelter whenever rain comes or when breakfast is served.
But thereâ€™s another challenge Ray Ray faces. With all the other sheep around, Ray Ray must sift through the noise and chatter around her. Thatâ€™s where her buddy, Lambini, comes in. Lambini wears a bell. Ray Ray is tuned in to Lambiniâ€™s bell at all times. She can disregard the unnecessary noise around her and follow Lambiniâ€™s bell. Although she cannot see Lambini, she trusts him to lead her where she should go. She trusts him not to take her to dangerous places or allow her to stray. I would bet that Ray Ray knows the sound of Lambiniâ€™s bleating as much as she does his bell.
As I read this story, I cannot help thinking about how we, as Christians, could learn a lesson or two from Ray Ray. She must utilize her God-given abilities to their fullest â€“ her keen sense of smell, instincts, and determined parameters. She must still the noise around her, cut through the chatter, and listen. And she must exercise faith. â€œNow faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not seeâ€ (Hebrews 11:1).
I especially like the idea of how Ray Ray must â€œstill the noise and cut through the chatterâ€ to listen. Oh, that we would tune our ears and hearts to listen to what God has to say and not the world or some misguided individual. â€œMy sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Meâ€ (John 10:27).
Why do we listen to people who give no thought to the Lord? Why do we allow ourselves to get worked up with the temporal things of this world? If we place our faith in God and trust His ways, why donâ€™t we take the time to listen to what He has to say to us?
A story in I Kings 20 tells about a man who did not listen to Godâ€™s voice and ended up being killed by a lion. God also told the priests through Malachi the prophet that if they didnâ€™t listen and honor His name, He would curse their blessings (Malachi 2:1-2). The Jews told Jeremiah that they would â€œlisten to the voice of the Lord our God whether it is pleasant or unpleasant . . . in order that it may go well with usâ€ (Jeremiah 42:6). They still disobeyed. Why? God has something to say to us, but we must still the noise and cut through the chatter to seek Him and listen. Then we must have faith. Like Ray Ray, our faith can be strengthened through blind obedience and focused listening.
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