“Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow.” In reality sheep are a little messier than those in an innocent nursery rhyme. More often than not, farming requires us to get our hands dirty and getting wool clean takes effort. Proverbs 31:13 tells us a godly woman “looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.”
This spring our happy meter went beyond delight into the euphoria zone as we cleaned ten fleeces by hand. We had wool everywhere; on the porch, in the yard, on a trailer, in our hair, on our clothes, in trunks, and under the beds! The family cat tried to eat some but gave up when the wool stuck to his rough tongue.
Our love of wool is ancient. Humans have been wearing wool since the Stone Age! Our distant ancestors recognized wool’s warmth, but I wonder if they knew it was naturally flame resistant. Fred and Wilma Flintstone could have cuddled a little closer to the campfire had they known. The US Military is one of the largest consumers of our country’s wool largely for this flame resistant classification.
In Biblical times too, wool was used in connection with military combat, but not how you might think. In one of history’s greatest battles, the scene opens in Judges 6:37 with the invasion of Israel. They have been very bad and God allowed their enemies to conquer them as a consequence. The scriptures specifically mention whenever the Israelites planted a crop, the invaders came and destroyed it. The Lord answered their cries for help by choosing Gideon to lead the revolt. He protested saying he was the least in his family and his clan was the weakest in the land. The Lord promised to be with him, but since he was already questioning God’s presence due to the destroyed crops issue, he asked for a sign. He asked God to make a fleece wet with dew but the ground all around it remain dry. The next morning he wrung a bowl full of dew out of that fleece. And then again, just to make sure, he asked for a second sign, this time for the fleece to be dry but the ground around it be soaked with dew…which indeed came to pass the next morning. An important lesson not to miss is that Gideon moved forward with God’s instructions even during his doubt. He tore down the false idols his town was guilty of worshiping (working at night because he was afraid), and he rallied several thousand troops ready to fight. Doubt didn’t paralyze him and he was faithful…as was God. Gideon ended up chasing away his enemies with a mere 300 men making a lot of noise.
Oftentimes the outcome of the battle relies on remembering God is sovereign. Also we must recognize our enemy. Jesus warns us to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) I don’t ever mean to be irreverent but I can’t help it, I’m a product of Saturday morning cartoons and whenever I hear that verse, I imagine Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Wolf punching the time clock and then spending the day trying to steal and protect the sheep. Ralph the Wolf would often disguise himself as a sheep and once even tried passing himself off as the Sheepdog! The reality is, we can be easily deceived unless we study to know the truth.
The children in the nursery rhyme ask “Why does the lamb love Mary so? Mary so? Mary so?”, and the teacher replies “because Mary loves the lamb you know…” In parting, let’s consider this: Perhaps the best way to not get the wool pulled over our eyes is to simply love the Lamb.
“Oh this one is too squishy! Ugh! This one is like sleeping on a rock! Hey, now this one is a perfect combination, not too hard and not too soft! It’s like being on a cloud.” Mattress shopping can be a bit overwhelming but mom, my cousin, and I made it fun as we rolled around on all the beds in the affordable corner of the show room. We finally chose one that was “just right“. I couldn’t help but think how we were like three Goldilocks testing and evaluating each one.
It seems the famous fairytale has become ingrained in our culture as we are always trying to obtain what feels just right – jobs, relationships, our identity, churches, etc. God reminds us not to give too much merit to our feelings when we are making a decision because feelings change. And we all have different views and feelings on subjects. Instead, He encourages us to constantly seek what HE tells us is “just right”. Proverbs chapter 3:5-6 “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.“
Goldilocks has even found her way into science. There is a theory called the Goldilocks Zone or Principal that accurately describes physical laws that govern the universe down to the minute detail being exactly what we need for life to exist. We are the precise distance from the sun to be warm enough like Goldilocks’ porridge… Not too hot and not too cold but just right.
Back to the mattress selection—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the importance of where we sleep. Mom always said, “If you can simply get enough rest you can handle almost anything the next day. “ It’s true, operating on little sleep can make even small setbacks or challenges seem overwhelming. As kids we didn’t care much where we slept. Youths are resilient like that. We slept anywhere, even on a hot beach crammed in the truck bed on a mattress packed tightly with piled up bags of vacation clothes…and lots of sand. Once my daughter was at a sleepover and said she got cold in the night and had to sleep under a sheer curtain still on the rod that she found stashed in a closet. And my cousin Brenda once complained about her pillow, observing it had large chunks of cut up couch foam in it. I remember raising up my pillow from across the room offering it to her. I held it high in the air between two fingers and we both fell into a fit of giggles when she saw it was about as thick as a piece of cardboard.
We were in good company—In Genesis 28:11 and 18 Jacob used a stone for a pillow. In 1 Samuel 19:13 Michael used a pillow and mattress of goats hair. And in psalm 6:6 there was mention of a tear soaked pillow. Tears or sleep-slobbers aside, Hank Locklin wrote a famous country song asking his darlin to send him the pillow that she dreamed on so he could dream on it too…
The pillows and mattresses in the show room all promised rest, but we three seekers knew how to wade through to find truth. False claims in life might distract us but Jesus said come to Him and He will give us true rest.
The Doobie Brothers 1972 hit lyrics using slang of the decade to mean cool say: “Jesus is just alright with me”. But let’s let Goldilocks attitude take the commitment one level higher— when faced with a showroom of options, I find Jesus to be “Just Right!” And that’s better than a dream come true.
Did you ever see a toad jump into the swamp or throw a rock into the river and appreciate the concentric circles from the ripple effect? Country kids learn very early how even the smallest of things influence what’s around it.
In addition to water, we can also see concentric circles in wood. It’s amazing how each ring tells a chapter (or year) in the tree’s story. One particular tree that could have a novel was the historic Webster Sycamore in Webster Springs, WV. It was not cut during the 1920-50’s timber boom but was left standing as a testament to the virgin forests that once covered the entire state. When my kids were little we visited Big Sycamore Park and had our photo taken with the natural celebrity, and like all special things, we miss it now that it’s gone. The tree had to be felled in 2010 due to its unsafe condition but in its heyday it stood 112 feet tall with a girth circumference of 25.75 ft. It dated back to 1508, making it over 500 years old. Imagine the story it told in those circle lines!
Dart boards, targets, simple garden onions and planetary orbits around the sun are also concentric circles, but still the most common are water ripples. The “ripple effect” is actually a theory that occurs when an initial disturbance spreads outward to disturb an increasingly larger portion. Here’s a family vacation story that gives the theory credence. We were enjoying a break from the New Jersey beach and decided to go shopping. Jeff was in charge of our son who was only two, while I chose our daughter who was slightly older and a better shopper. As we made our way through the sea of bathing suits, our son darted in and out of the circular clothing racks like a quick elusive sand crab. I could tell my husband was having a difficult time keeping up with him but I didn’t look back—until I heard a loud desperate “WHOOOOOAH!” Guessing it was coming from my crew, I slowly turned around and saw Jeff feverishly struggling with a scantily clad mannequin our son had pushed over. His steely eyes of determination told me our family could still walk out with a sliver of dignity-- if only she didn’t touch the floor! And so they “danced” like Whirling Dervishes. Onlookers gasped as he made his heroic Super Bowl save. I laughed until I cried, because I’m supportive like that. As we herded our troops proudly out the door, I stole a glance back and noted the forlorn mannequin’s bikini top hung down around her waist and her disheveled wig was sideways! Yes, sometimes a disturbance spreads out and affects what’s around it.
In Beth Guckenberger’s book Throw the First Punch she writes about brave biblical David, who threw a stone which didn’t disturb water but still caused an epic ripple effect. With it he slayed the giant and saved his people, and preserved the lineage of Jesus. Guckenberger says, “When I think about the stone I can throw, I inventory the gifts, abilities, resources, experiences, and tools in my hand I can raise against our enemy (satan)” What “rocks” do we possess that could cause a ripple effect for generations of purpose?
Usually we think of the initial disturbance coming from an outside source, i.e. a two-year-old or a stone thrown. But recently I photographed our now grown daughter in the middle of the pond and considered how in life’s circumstances, sometimes it’s actually the thing in the middle of the situation that can move to cause a ripple effect. What if, with the slightest movement, if we are brave enough to move, we might cause a life-altering ripple for good? So wherever change is needed—let’s put on our muck boots and step into it…and may the resulting concentric circles tell a new story.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel