Baaaaarack (no, not THAT Barack).

Meet Baarack. Baarack was found in the Australian bush recently. He was so burdened by his coat that he could barely stand. In fact, he was found lying down and the gentleman who found him thought someone had just discarded a load of dirty smelly wool. Baarack was weighted down with an extra seventy-seven pounds of wool. Had he not been found and cared for, Baarack would have died within days, plain and simple.

I don’t know a whole lot about farm animals. From my tiny bit of research, I discovered that not all sheep require regular shearing. Many breeds of wild sheep drop their coats in the spring. It is believed that most sheep, being domesticated for 10,000 years now, have been intentionally breed to grow thicker and thicker coats. In essence, we did this to poor Baarack. In our efforts to do a good thing, provide cozy blankets and coats, we bred sheep who if not cared for properly will die under the weight of their own quality product.

Baarack had disgusting swarms of insects growing in his wool by the way. The filth that he was carrying with that wool that had grown over his backside…let your mind wander. Did you know that if female sheep are not regularly shorn their babies cannot nurse properly and will die? So, not only does the parent need shearing for it’s own health, but the children suffer if the parent isn’t properly cared for. The videos of the arduous process of shearing Baarack are fascinating (and gross). You can imagine, Baarack was fairly miserable during the shearing task and needed intense medical care after being freed of the wool. He had to learn to walk again.

The notion that we did this to Baraack really pains me. In our good intentions to make thicker and more affordable coats, we bred sheep desperate for the radical and regular care of a skilled shepherd.

(I once had a friend tell me that I over-spiritualized things. I believed that for a hot minute. Then I was unbelievably grateful that I DO spiritualize a whole lot of things. Sometimes a sheep is just a sad sheep, but even a sad sheep can teach us big lessons. I like that my mind naturally looks for lessons. Moving on back to Baarack…)

Baarack reminded me that in our efforts to produce a LOT of good things with good outcomes, religion has essentially created heavier burdens for all of us to carry. What makes me giggle is that a whole lot of us don’t see that we are bound by religion. A lot of people in my particular heritage will argue with you for hours about how they are not religious.

Church, we’ve weighted ourselves down and we’ve weighted our people down, and now there are a whole lot of Baaracks wandering the hills trapped under loads of guilt and confusion and non-essential “needs”. Many Baaracks are so blinded by their wool burden they have wandered looking for freedom, authenticity, and salvation in the hills.

Christians learned a lot of lessons over the last three years. We don’t need a building. We don’t need a paid pastor, preacher, youth guy, children’s gal, worship team, leader, dancer, band, bounce-house, Superbowl party, annual retreat, lock-in… the list goes on and on. You don’t need it, and if your spirituality requires it, you are definitely missing something that those things won’t ever provide. None of those things are bad things. Not one. But I fear in the age we find ourselves, these ‘good’ things have burdened us all in ways that are not helpful, and we desperately need a Shepherd to shear us all down. Shear us down from financial burdensome buildings and salaries, shear us down from consumer driven church cultures, shear us down to the absolute basics…

Christ and Community are all we need. Can your faith survive that shearing?

Note that Baraack went through some great discomfort to be healed.

May our faith be strong enough to withstand our required shearing.

May we trust the Good Shepherd to know what He is doing.