I love receiving videos, photos, and texts from the shepherdess of the three wethers born and raised on our farm this past spring. I especially love those that express the fun and quirky pleasures that come with shepherding “the cutest sheep in the world.”Dances with Wolves, move over. Dances with Sheep is a real thing and so is the joy it brings!
Dancing is, after all, a holy, natural response to soul-stirring gladness. Scripture brims with tales of God’s people dancing and leaping with joy, from Exodus to Acts and beyond: Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and “all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing to celebrate the victory of the Lord.” (Exodus 15:20) King David leaped and danced with joy before the Ark of the Covenant. (Samuel 6:14) John the Baptist leaped with joy in his mother’s womb as Mary, the mother of God, greeted her kinswoman. (Luke 1:41) The lame man sitting outside the Temple, healed in Jesus’ name, immediately stood up and began to leap and praise the Lord. (Acts 3:7)
Can you remember the last time you danced or leaped for joy? You don’t need to have Valais Blacknose sheep (but it helps 😊). What’s needed is simply a grateful heart. That sentiment is what I see when I view this video of Emily and her “three amigos”— the magnitude of her gratitude: for their presence, playfulness, beauty, and sweetness, for the fulfillment of a long-dreamed-of dream, and for the genuine friendship and trust she’s forged with her flock that lights up and leaps off the screen with every playful twist and turn.
I’ve come to believe the ability to be joyful boils down to this question: am I grateful — or grumbling? One leads to a daily dance, the other to a daily grind. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be dancing! St. Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this [whatever the Lord sets before us each day] is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:18)
Let’s face it. Some days on the farm — and some days in general — can feel more like a grueling foot march than a waltz. But they only actually become so when we forget that God himself is the Lord of this dance we call Life. If we truly believe God is righteous and good all the time, then it’s right and good all the time to give Him thanks and praise, to be content whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil. 4:11-13)
I’ve found that when I actually live that attitude of gratitude to God, there’s always a little happy dance going on in my soul. I am, after all, a sheep in His pasture — and so are you! As it turns out, I don't think Emily is the only one who dances with sheep. I reckon Jesus dances with sheep too. Think about it: can you imagine Jesus being a cool, disengaged, casual bystander in the midst of our exuberant joy and gladness before Him? Our shouts and singing? Our worship, praise, and thanksgiving? I’m going to take a leap of faith and say that our Good Shepherd rejoices (and dances!) with us because He who made us in His own image and likeness simply can’t resist. So…
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness endures through all generations.
May your “new year” be filled with
the joy of the Lord!