Roger and the flock had been following their shepherd safely for as long as anyone could remember. Through hill and dale, across streams, through deep, thick woods and across barren, rocky plains, nobody even thought to complain or question the shepherd’s judgment.

One day, though, a big rain came, and the tame little creeks the sheep routinely crossed with no trouble became treacherous. But floods or no floods, the sheep were looking forward to a good meal of the fine grass in the meadow just over one of the rain-swollen creeks.

You can imagine the dismay of the sheep when the shepherd began leading them away from the succulent meadows toward craggy hills where nothing grew but thorny scrub and unappetizing stubble.

A Plan Emerges

Three of the senior sheep sidled up to one another and began to assess the situation. They were headed the wrong way, that much was certain. Whether it was some sort of punishment for past transgressions, some sort of loyalty test, or just pure meanness on the part of the shepherd, no one could say.

One thing was certain, however: The good grazing was that-a-way, and they were headed this-a-way. So the senior sheep began to edge away from the shepherd.

The shepherd, busy trying to choose a safe path away from the rising water, did not notice his sheep sneaking off. This was unusual, but so were the circumstances.

Masterfully Conceived, Ably Executed

Once the sheep had separated themselves from the shepherd, they picked up speed. It didn’t take long before they found the stream separating them from the rich grazing lands, and, as one sheep, they leapt into the water to swim across.

Their joy was soon replaced by horror as the waters washed several weaker sheep downstream. The others scrambled for the bank, but they soon found that several others were lost to the flood as well. Cold and frightened, they re-thought their plan of action and decided the wise move would be to cut their losses and see if they could find a shepherd.

They might not be able to find their own shepherd they had known and loved, but guidance was needed.

A Fortuitous Happenstance

It didn’t take long before a very prosperous-looking, snappily-dressed fellow walked right up to them. They were a little wary, but he was carrying a shepherd’s crook. They would prefer to get back with their own shepherd, of course, but things were looking pretty bleak right now. They quickly decided this shepherd would do.

So the snappy-looking fellow began to lead them right along the way.

“Now this is service!” the sheep thought. “This fellow certainly seems to know where he is going! And look! He even has a wagon we can ride in!”

Sure enough, the door was opening on a wagon that read, “Norlan Scrudder, Purveyor of Fine Lamb and Mutton.”

Everybody climbed in, and the sheep rode along in comfort for a good while, congratulating themselves on their cleverness in getting away from the dangerous path their shepherd was leading them toward. There had been risks involved, and yes, some of them had paid a high price for their newly won freedom. But, after all, nothing worth having ever comes easily.

As they were discussing a way to memorialize the victims of their earlier misfortune with the creek, they heard angry voices outside, and they began to grow nervous.

A Terrible Discovery

In their efforts to see what was going on outside, Winifred the sheep noticed some odd stains on the floor. After a couple of careful sniffs, she realized it was blood. Not just any blood, either, but sheep’s blood! She burst forth with a round of bleating like nothing the flock had ever heard before.

What the sheep didn’t yet realize, though, was outside, their shepherd — yes, the one they had run away from — had stopped the wagon to ask if by any chance they had seen a flock of sheep without a shepherd. The wagon driver had denied any knowledge, hence the angry voices. That was right about the time Winifred made her discovery.

Their shepherd instantly recognized Winifred’s terrified bleating and called out to her. When they heard the shepherd’s voice, the entire fold began to bleat and bray, kicking at the walls of the wagon and raising such a ruckus that the mutton monger could only look embarrassed and apologize for having made such a mistake. One might say he could only look sheepish, but that would be a cheap joke, and we are above that sort of thing.

Sunlight flooded the interior of the wagon as the doors flew open and the sheep burst forth to greet their master. Their joy was redoubled when they saw, alive and well, all the sheep they had given up for dead after the creek had seized them.

The sheep had resented the difficult path chosen for them by the shepherd, and they had struck out on their own, only to find disaster. The shepherd picked up the pieces when they tried to make it on their own, and he rescued them from the consequences of their own folly.

The moral of the story is this: Those who promise you comfort and ease are not necessarily your friends, and those who put you through difficulty and pain are not necessarily your enemies.

But whatever happens, when things go wrong, and you are in trouble, listen to the voice of the master. He will save you.