Lessons from a Spinning Sheep
I loved it the first time I experienced it--the Children’s Nativity at UCUMC. That first Christmas, I was newly engaged to be married. My mind was racing with all the possibilities of life with my soon-to-be husband. Those dreams now included anticipating the day when we might have a child who would be a sheep in this annual event.
The sheep were my favorite nativity characters. The four and five year olds always dressed in sweat suits turned inside out to reveal the fuzzy gray or black material hiding underneath. The addition of ears on their head and black socks on their hands and feet as hooves completed the barnyard ensemble. They entered from the back of the church and crawled down the aisle on their hands and knees "BAAing" with all their might. The older children were shepherds and tried their best to herd the unruly sheep. It was adorable chaos that first year (and every year since),but a true delight to watch!
Nine years, several failed fertility procedures, one miscarriage and one Chinese adoption later, I FINALLY had a daughter old enough to be in the nativity. I was going to have my very own sheep! There was one small problem. She did not share my excitement. She did not want to be a sheep. I tried everything to convince her. I told her how much fun it would be. I told her how sad Mommy would be if she didn't do it. I pointed out other kids she knew who would be sheep, too. Finally, I gave up and told her Santa was still watching and he wanted her to be a sheep. (Parenting is not easy!)
The big day arrived and I had my camera in hand and was hanging out of my pew to capture THE moment. For a second, I thought she might have "baacked out" of this, but there she was—the last sheep in the flock. I noticed that my precious sheep was the only one not wearing “ears.” She straggled behind, but she was moving. She finally got up to the stage where they had practiced how they were going to sit still and face baby Jesus. “Focus on baby Jesus,” the director had told them over and over.
However, “still” wasn’t really in her vocabulary. She managed to stay on her bottom, but instead of focusing on Jesus, she was spinning in circles. She was the sheep in constant motion. At one point, she looked like she was going to jump off the stage. I quickly scrunched up my face into the "Mommy look” followed by a strong head shake, "no," and she went back to spinning. Later, I realized that I failed to capture her on film coming down the aisle. In my anxiousness to find her and wave to her, I missed her completely. I did get a nice shot of the back of her head. I would have to hold these memories in my mind and heart instead of in my scrapbook.
One of the gifts of parenting is the way God uses my children to teach me. I recognized myself as the stubborn sheep in the back trying to follow my Shepherd, but trying to do what I wanted, too. Just as my daughter struggled to “focus on Jesus,” don’t I also get distracted and take my eyes off of Jesus? God sees me spinning around in circles contemplating bad choices, too. How many times does He gently shake His head, "no" and ask me to be still? I was reminded that I need to set aside time to be still in the presence of God, especially during the Christmas season. I don’t want to miss any beautiful moments with the people in my life and, more importantly, with my Savior. God uses unlikely messengers to reach us. He sent a tiny baby to save the world and a spinning sheep to remind me of it.
- Michele Travis