Something goes wrong. In the natural order of creation, the ewe nurtures her newborn lambs with passion and zeal. She will defend her lambs to death, literally, if they are threatened by an enemy. It is part of the miracle of birth to see a ewe bond with her lambs. Together they develop a communication that helps them to distinguish and identify each other even if randomly placed in the midst of 1000 other lambs and ewes. They instinctively mother the newborn through to the age of weaning.
Unless…. something goes wrong. A few lambs get rejected. It may be for various reasons. Mastitis (infection of the udder) can cause swelling and pain and the ewe pushes the lamb away from nursing. The lamb may get separated from mom during the birth process and the lamb dries off and loses its initial smell that identifies it to its mother. She thinks it is another ewes lamb and she rejects it. There are a few ewes that are “bad” mothers. They give birth and walk away. No matter the cause, the end result is a brutal reality.
Lambs that have been rejected will go from ewe to ewe and try to steal milk, usually by nursing from behind. Typically a ewe lets her lambs nurse by her side. She smells to make sure the lambs attempting to nurse are her offspring and any intruder gets a swift bunt from her head. The rejected lamb, or “bum or orphan” lamb is on its own to survive. Often you can pick them out because of their dirty heads. They resort to stealing milk while the ewe is relieving herself and the lamb ends up getting marked. The lamb either steals milk or dies so this seems like a small price to pay to get a quick lunch. The lamb spends its existence in the early years, craving nutrition as it stomach is never full. It can never rest for a moment and lives with the reminder of rejection every time hunger calls. The lamb is marked and rejected by the flock.
In life’s sheep pen, there are people who feel like a “bum” lamb. They know the sting of rejection. They live with the constant reminder that they do not fit in and they are not welcome. If you could crawl under their skin, you could feel the unfulfilled longing and the unmet hunger for acceptance. They sense the “mark” on their lives and so desperately want to be like everyone else. They grow up tough and learn how to fend for themselves and learn how to survive on the streets of life. Each day brings with it a brutal reminder that they are the ones who get bunted away. This unmet soul hunger and the excruciating pain of rejection drives them to do crazy things. They either curl up and die inside or they fight for life. This is not the way life was intended.
Some of these “bum” lambs live in our neighborhoods. Some of them go to our church and live in our own families. They try so hard to blend in but if you look closely, you can see the mark. They are all around us and even some of us have been one of them at one time or another. Orphans looking for a home. Wounded souls seeking love and acceptance. There is a “bum” inside all of us.
Religion doesn’t help. Religion is man seeking God and it just adds another layer to the rejection list of life. How does the rules and regulations of religion help to heal a rejected spirit? It is an empty box of hope that turns into a casket. Religion only brings constraints to an orphan who needs a savior.
What a “bum” lambs needs more than anything is adoption. He needs to find someone who is willing to accept and love and nurture a famished soul. Someone who understands rejection and being pushed away. Someone who can do something about restoring and healing a broken spirit. An orphan needs someone to take them in their arms and give them what they have never been able to find and can never get on their own. Sure a orphan can learn to survive and become tough on their own, but they cannot make someone else give them unconditional love and acceptance.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd understands. He suffered unspeakable rejection and cruelty without a word of retaliation. He walked his final path of agony alone. There was no one to his right or left at his crucial moments. He hung on a cross by himself and felt for the only time in eternity, his Father turn aside because of the sin he carried. He was a marked man. Every lash of the whip, every pound of the hammer reminded him that he was rejected. Even the men for whom he died mocked him and said, “If you are God, why don’t you come down from there and save yourself!”
No Jesus, I am so glad you didn’t come down from there. If you had, I would forever live as an orphan. I would never know what it is like to have you shepherd me and accept me with unconditional love. If you had backed out, I am doomed to be a “bum” forever. If you had failed, I would forever roam around life seeking to find what I cannot have. I would be in hell.
But you took my mark. You carried my shame and hopelessness. Now I belong to You! You are my God and I am your child. His unchanging plan has been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave Him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5
I have heard it said, “Being a Christ follower is like one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.” I think it is one “orphan” telling another “orphan” where to find our Father.
We have a Savior who understands. He calls today, “Follow me!”