Once upon a time, there was a young sheep named Lance, born of a comfortable sheep family and always treated well by the shepherd, the sheepdog and the other sheep. As Lance grew, however, he became aware of deep flaws in the sheep/shepherding socio-political system.

“Why does the shepherd get to do all the leading?” Lance wondered. “When have WE ever been consulted about where to go or what to do? I’m sick of being herded around by a guy with a stick, just eating and wandering and waiting to be sheared. Well, no more.”

No longer would he listen to the commands of the shepherd — or anybody, for that matter. No longer would he listen to those who dared to call him a sheep. No longer would he be just one of a wooly, complacent flock.

That very night, Lance determined he would no longer be a sheep. From now on, he would be Lance the Leopard. He would become a sleek, solitary hunter — death on four, well-muscled legs wrapped in sleek, spotted fur. Lance stood up, held his head high, and as quietly as he imagined a leopard would, he crept away from the flock.

The Pursuit of Prey

As Lance pursued his destiny, striding with determined, feline grace across a meadow, he began to feel a little hungry. He looked around him at all the tender, green grass, but it only made him want to laugh.

“Grass!” he snorted. “I can’t believe anybody really eats that stuff!”

No grass for him, thank you. He knew what he wanted: a zebra.

The next few days didn’t do anything to dim Lance’s passion for being a predator, but they probably should have. He spent two whole days trying to climb a tree so he could practice pouncing on things. But he couldn’t even make it to the first limb.

When his efforts made him hungry, he looked with disgust at a grass-covered hillside. But after checking to make sure nobody was looking, he ate a large quantity. Still, he assured himself it was just to keep his energy up during this admittedly challenging transitional period.

After weeks of practicing his hunting skills on imaginary prey — and getting no better at any of them — he had a sudden revelation: Leopard is as leopard does. He was going about this business all wrong. If you want to be a leopard, be a leopard. Don’t practice it, do it!

So he did.

The Moment of Truth 

Lance found a little bluff overlooking a small road, and he waited. He had discovered no zebras since becoming a leopard, but a farmer and his mule passed by twice daily on the way to work in the fields. That would do for starters.

Soon, the farmer and the mule happened along. Lance launched himself off the bluff, landing on the mule’s back. In the moments of chaos that ensued, the mule threw Lance off, temporarily stunning him, and the mule was knocked senseless, falling to the ground.

When Lance came to, he saw before him the reward for all his struggles to throw off the shackles of sheepdom and embrace the life of a leopard. His kill lay before him — hundreds of pounds of rich, red meat, just waiting for him to sink his teeth into and enjoy.

So Lance went up and began to feast. But it was rather disappointing. He looked where he had bitten and found out why: His teeth had just scraped away some of the hair from the mule’s skin, giving his quarry a shave. A sheep’s mouth simply wasn’t made for devouring zebras or even mules, he realized.

About the time the mule regained his senses and began kicking Lance, the farmer came back with a piece of rope. He put it around Lance’s neck, tossed him in the wagon and drove him back to the shepherd.

There were no hard feelings — the farmer figured that Lance was a lost sheep and must have simply fallen from the bluff. The idea of a sheep deliberately attacking a farmer and his mule was so ridiculous, it never even entered his mind.

The Lessons of Lance

So, what have we learned? First, it can be frustrating and annoying to be one of a flock. The flock doesn’t always do what we want it to do, and it doesn’t always listen when we complain.

We’ve also learned it is always possible to throw off the burden of the flock and strike out on our own, abiding by any rules we choose, making up our own rules as we go or having no rules at all.

There are plenty of things in life worth leaving behind us. And there are plenty of rules in life worth changing or disobeying or ignoring. But Lance learned — and maybe we should take a hint — that when we start looking for new ways of doing things, we need to be prepared for the consequences of leaving the OLD life behind us. And in the end, even if we get exactly what we’ve been looking for, it might not be good for us — or even very enjoyable.

Sheep are with the shepherd, and the shepherd is with the flock. When we get separated, things can get very strange, very quickly.

But if we follow the shepherd, we can expect the care of one who knows our troubles and our fears better than we know them ourselves. Life in the flock may be boring and annoying at times, but the shepherd promises, “I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”