Sheep or goat?

On June 10th, someone posted this ad on the website, Kijiji. You’ll have no difficulty imagining the snipped-out parts.

“I have 2 dozen goats I need to get rid of. I had no idea raising goats would be this hard. These little *** keep eating all my wife’s flowers and climbing on our *** cars. Nobody told me they were such good climbers. The first person to get these *** goats out of here can have them.”

I understand. A few decades ago, the Preacher took a Sabbatical from full-time ministry. We rented a farmhouse in the Ontario countryside, and became country people. Sort of. But the children, ages 9 and 11, needed something to keep them amused.

Two sets of friends—genuine country people—offered some of their livestock as pets. We adored the rabbits, but I should have suspected the cheerful offering of two Angora billy goats. Curly and Shyly, the children named them.

Each night we led the goats into their shed. They bribed easily most days, but eventually hitting a metal bucket of grain didn’t work anymore. Our irascible red cocker, Chalmer, took over then. The moment we unhooked his leash, he raced after the bad-hair-day beasts. They scampered into the shed like lambs—until the evening they didn’t.

The two goats had been very chummy all day, no doubt having a council of war. That night, they demonstrated their knowledge of two obvious facts: First, they were bigger than that red dawg. Second, they were two to his one.

Flip. Flop. Head over heels. I can still see Chalmer, soaring. Landing, winded. Twice.

After that, Chalmer still ran when he saw the goats, just in the opposite direction. Curly and Shyly held court as the undisputed kings of the yard. They amused us by peering into our windows. They shoved around the outdoor furniture and whatever else moved—including people.

We enjoyed the goats while we had them. In retrospect, we’ve enjoyed their stories more.

Goats and sheep have a few things in common. A willingness to follow is not one of those things. Goats want to be in charge. They’re canny. Haughty. They bully their way into leadership. They want the best for themselves—and they don’t like sharing.

“Goats are capricious,” says writer Mike Ford. “They are impulsive and unpredictable, devious and contrary. If they are not poking their heads through fences, they may be standing on their hind legs, stretching for those tender leaves just out of reach. Goats are never content with what they have.”

In Matthew 25, speaking of his return, Jesus says he will separate people from all nations “as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.” He classified them this way: the sheep responded to others’ needs with compassion. Goats looked the other way. And only the sheep will gain heaven.

I call myself a follower of Jesus, one of his flock. But that list bothers me.

Gentle Shepherd, correct me. I too often speak goat.

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This morning I took a few minutes to connect with the Shepherd on that very subject, beginning with this wonderful favourite by the Gaithers. Gentle Shepherd, come and lead  us, for we need you to help us find our way. 

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