Today was the day she decided to live exposed. Years of passive acceptances. Years of dealing with whatever they piled on her. Years of smiles and nods slowly suffocating the fighting spirit left inside. But from now on it would be different. Summoning all her courage to make a stand. Breaking out of the whitewashed history she layered upon herself. Finally crying out in the only way she knew how.
Unworthy of love, she said. Undeserving of kindness, she said. Unable to be forgiven, she said. Finding her identity caught up in the one who did not belong. Comfortable on the outskirts of the pasture, just outside of the community. Watching, listening, but always from a plausibly deniable distance. She was not one of them, she had to tell herself.
Because to call herself part of the family meant grave things for this little sheep. She would have to step a little closer to the weird fuzzy flock that gathered together for warmth and strength. She would once again open herself to love and disappointment. She would have to call out the wolves that jumped the fence to tear at her already wounded flesh. She would have to listen to that stupid Shepherd that continued to call her very own name.
All she desired was to be the little black sheep that no one would love. That would be easier. No expectations. No emotional attachments. No unanticipated pain. Everyone knew the black sheep was doomed to failure, separation, and destruction. Everyone expected the black sheep to be just fine on the outside, unloved, and forgotten. That’s all she wanted.
But He wouldn’t leave her alone. That Shepherd, day and night, kept calling her name. Even when she travelled to the farthest parts, beyond the boundaries of safety, she somehow heard His voice. Just when she thought escape was certain, another fellow sheep wandered back from over the mountain, further than she knew was possible. Day after day, year after year, the little black sheep couldn’t run far enough away. Grace and mercy stalked her throughout the rest of her days.
One day, jumping carelessly among the jagged rocks, the little black sheep heard that annoying voice that she gradually learned how to ignore. Quickening her pace in the opposite direction, she leaped over a boulder only to meet a strong hand blocking her path. The quiet shepherd caught her by sudden surprise. He held her tight for a moment, looking deep into her ashamed face. Slowly, she opened her eyes and turned to meet his gaze.
There she expected impatient anger, but His stare was pure compassion. There she expected condemnation, but His focus was relief. There she expected the disappointment won by a disobedient black sheep, but the reflection in His eyes showed her to be whiter than snow.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’” (Luke 15:4-6)