A letter to my grandchildren

by Mrs. Thelma H. Jenkins

Dear Emma and Charles,

One morning, when I drew back the curtains and looked across the field on the other side of the road, I noticed a sheep lying under a hedge on the bank, seemingly having spent the night there in great comfort. But two or three hours later, Grandpa called me and said, "There's a sheep in the field and it's caught in a thick *bramble and can't get away." Sure enough, it was the sheep I had seen earlier, now standing on her feet, looking very puzzled and obviously wondering why she could not move away from the hedge. She had spent the night there, not because she wanted to, but because she could not get away. It was a very thick bramble, and the more she struggled to get free, the more tightly it was becoming *embedded in her thick woollen fleece.

The rest of the flock *ambled past her, evidently feeling that it was no concern of theirs. One of them stopped for a moment to look at her, as though to say, "I see you have problems and I wish I could help you - but what can I do? There's just no way that I can set you free." As we watched, the *entangled sheep made another effort to free herself, with no more success than before, then nibbled rather hopelessly at the grass within reach having, no doubt, already eaten all that was any good.

We realised that we must do something for her so we telephoned Brian, the farmer. Brian was not there but George, who helps him, came riding up in about twenty minutes, strode into the field and, with a strong pair of cutters, set the sheep free from the bramble. We watched her *ambling across the field in search of the rest of the flock, apparently none the worse for her hours of *solitary confinement. Had she been in a hidden corner of the field, she could have been trapped like that for several days; or, had this happened to a sheep out on the wild mountain-side, she would probably have starved to death or been attacked, in her helpless condition, by *predators.

A few months earlier, when Aunty Iris was staying with us, she had noticed a sheep lying on her back (in a different field this time) and we all knew that this was serious. On this *occasion, our telephone call brought Brian up `lickety-split'! We heard his Land Rover roaring up the lane and then saw him running across the field. He quickly *heaved the animal on to her feet and stood watching her for a few minutes. We spoke to him as he began to drive back down the lane. He said that she would be all right now, but in another half-an-hour she would have been dead. Apparently the gases from the *partly-consumed grass in her stomach would very soon have caused her to choke. He had lost a sheep only the week before because she had been lying on her back too long and no-one had seen her in time to help. The sheep lies down to scratch her back on the grass and then finds that, with the heavy weight of wool she is carrying before *shearing, she cannot rise to her feet again.

Both these sheep had got themselves into difficulties and no-one could help them or set them free but their owner, the farmer. The other sheep could look on, but could do nothing to help. That is why the Bible says that human beings are like sheep. Because of our sin, we get ourselves into dreadful situations and no-one can set us free but our Maker, Who is God. Other people cannot help us, although they may feel sorry for us, like the sheep that looked on but could do nothing. How lovely it is that the Lord Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." Our sin is like the strong bramble that was twisting into the sheep's wool so that she could never get herself free; indeed, the more she tried, the worse the tangle became. Her owner, the farmer, was the only one who could set her free. In the same way, we can never set ourselves free from our sin and the more we try, the worse we become. But the Lord Jesus has said,

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

One of the prettiest sights in the spring-time is to see the lambs having their pre-bedtime scamper round the edge of the field. I always try to take a walk in the early evening so that I can watch them. There is usually one lamb who is the leader and he starts racing down the side of the field, and sometimes there are from ten to twenty who will follow him - racing right down from one corner to the other, then back again. They do this over and over again - perhaps to use up all their spare energy before they settle down for the night. They are just like little children who say, "Just one more time, Mummy - just one more game before bed!" I love to hear their little hooves drumming on the grass and especially to see them suddenly stop and give a happy little jump up into the air, with all four feet off the ground, just as though there were four *springs under their tiny feet. Have you seen them do that?

The evening sun is beginning to glow on the mountains, so I will stop writing now and walk up to the pool, to see if any of the lambs are having their bedtime scamper. Good-bye for now, with love from Grandpa and Grandma.

* The words marked with a star can be looked up in the dictionary if you are not sure of their meaning.

Copyright © Family Matters 1997