The Lonely Lamb

About five years ago, we were visiting one of my cousins in Montana. My cousin and his wife were assisting their daughter in a 4-H project. They had raised two lambs, Lolo and Oreo, and entered them for judging in the county fair.

The 4-H Program is important because it helps kids develop skills that are necessary in life. Some things they learn are time management, sportsmanship, finance, record-keeping, and animal husbandry. And very importantly, it teaches kids the necessity of being a team-member.

A lot of work went into raising those critters, and it wasn’t easy. Some of the things they had to do were: build the proper facility, buy the proper equipment, choose the precise nutrition, feed the animals the proper amount of food, keep them healthy, keep their fur clean, keep the stable clean, learn the proper method of showing the animals, and train them not to be afraid of people.

The day of judgment came. This was when the people raising and caring for the critters would know if the time and effort paid off. The judges were kind, but very detailed in their judging. Some animal owners got nervous, sweat, and even became somewhat fearful; but others took it in stride and enjoyed the show. They knew it was not a life-and-death situation.

Although Elli did very well in caring for and showing Lolo, she did not win first place. That was a disappointment.

The next day presented another tense situation: the auction.

Now they would know how people financially valued their work. Would Lolo go for a paltry sum, or would she be highly valued? Joy reigned because beautiful, 110-pound Lolo was purchased for a handsome price.

Then joy morphed into relief. All the work, effort, stress, diligence, and sacrificing of time over the lambs was over. Now Elli and her parents could relax. Lolo was raised, was sold for a good amount, and was gone. Whew!

But wait a minute: Lolo’s sister, Oreo, was still here. How is she reacting to this ordeal?

When my cousin brought Oreo back from the fair, he unloaded her and took her to the pen. But something very strange took place.

Members of the deer family (sheep, goats, caribou, deer, elk, and others) will often jump from all four feet at the same time. It looks funny because it looks like they are bouncing on springs. They land on all four feet simultaneously, then spring up from all fours. If I were to put a sound to it, it would be, “Boing, boing, boing, boing, etc.”

But Oreo was adding something to the effort. Each time she landed, she pounded the ground – hitting the ground as hard as she could. We were standing seventy-five feet away but could feel the thudding as well as hear it. Over and over, she was running, bouncing, and pounding the ground. What was going through her mind? Then it hit us.

Oreo had never been alone! She had either been with her mother and sister, or with only her sister – but never alone. Now, for the first time in her life, this lamb felt hopelessly abandoned and was in mental trauma.

We figured it would take Oreo probably a week to adjust to her new life and overcome the morbid sense of loneliness.

That brought back a memory going back to 1960. Dad, a US Navy chaplain, had received word that a young man had been killed in a helicopter crash and had the responsibility of notifying the wife. I went with dad but waited in the car.

When the woman saw dad on her doorstep in full-dress uniform on Sunday afternoon, a mortal dread enshrouded her. Although dad did his best, there is nothing gentle about hearing that your husband, wife, or child just died. And when trauma, mental or physical, descends upon us, responses are not always predicable.

Her strength leaving her, she nearly collapsed to the floor, and her mind went wild. Dad helped her to a chair. She wanted to smash the wall! Slam the doors! Scream! Hit someone like the lamb was hitting the ground as hard as it could!

But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Her son was sitting beside her.

Crying, the new widow told her 4-year-old son, “Daddy won’t be coming home today; he’s gone to heaven.” Dad arranged for other navy wives to be with her for help and comfort.

At first she felt like an unloved, abandoned, lonely lamb. But after several months of tears, asking “WHY,” and wanting to give up on life, the wife sought and received wise counseling and placed her trust and faith in our Savior. She eventually emotionally healed. She asked God for strength and wisdom to raise her son, and three years later she remarried.

When the hammer of life hits us and we experience the crushing pain, when we suffer that intense grief, we have the privilege of asking the Lord for help. Jesus is always available to us and can help us if we let Him.

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