Are sheep stupid?
I had always heard that they were. I had a stereotype firmly implanted in my head in regard to sheep. I guess that’s why the scene I witnessed several years ago on the outskirts of Pisa is so indelibly etched into the parchment of my memory scroll.
Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa was something I had never considered as a possibility. However, I was fortunate enough to tag along on a choir trip to Italy with my husband and his students. Rome, Venice, Florence . . . dreams come true for me! And when we came within just a short drive from Pisa, how could we pass it by?!
It was truly a sight to behold. Fascinating! However, it had begun to lean a bit too much; the old structure’s famous tilt had become dangerously precarious. They were in the process of straightening it. But not too much — just enough to remove the danger while retaining the charm (and tourist business!). After all, who would drive two hours out of their way to see a perfectly straight Tower of Pisa?
As enamored and awe-struck as I was (I felt like fourth grade social studies had come alive before my very eyes), what I am most grateful for is what we witnessed just outside of town.
As we were departing Pisa on our tour bus, we were delayed by a train. As we looked out the window to our left, we were admiring the beauty of the countryside when we saw something moving in the distance. At first it was just a dark spot in the green pasture, but we could see that it was headed toward us. Whatever it was would move a few feet, then stop, then move some more.
With our eyes glued to the scene, we began to discern individual shapes within the dark mobile blob. One was taller and seemed to be the leader. Indeed, as that one moved, the entire group moved. When that one stopped, the entire group stopped. It was obvious that that one was in control.
Finally, as the slow-moving train passed, we could see exactly what the slow-moving group consisted of. A shepherd and his sheep. We were mesmerized as we watched the sheep follow their care-taker. They were clustered behind him, moving forward only when he did. When he stopped, they stopped. Not once did any one of them run ahead or run away or turn back.
“Follow Me.” Jesus tells me to follow, not run ahead. When He moves forward, I should move forward. When He stops, I should stop. I need to stay close and listen for the sound of His voice. If I run away or run ahead or turn back, I will be lost because I will not be able to hear Him. What sort of sheep am I? Sometimes I wonder.
But I know that Italian sheep are not stupid. It takes a darn smart sheep to know enough to stay close to the Shepherd.