An Animal Parable

Ask the animals and they will teach you
Job 12:7


“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my own life for the sheep.” — John 10:11, 14-15 NIV


Duarte, The Good Shepherd

By Harrison Woodard

It had been almost two weeks since Duarte arrived. He was the only llama at the ranch and really wanted to make some friends. But no matter how nice he was, the sheep kept their distance from him.

Each day he would watch the sheep run past him as they headed out to the pasture.

He would politely say, “Good morning,” to everyone in the flock.

And in the evening as they headed back to the barn, he would add a pleasant, “Good evening.”

But it didn’t matter. They just quickly ran by him as if he wasn’t even there.

There was only one little lamb that would speak to Duarte. Taru would always shyly say, “Hello.” And then scurry off to join the rest of the sheep.

A few days later a late winter storm came down from the mountains. All the sheep scurried back to the warmth of the barns. As always, Duarte welcomed each one back.

As he counted them, he noticed one was missing. Taru was not with the flock.

Duarte ran off into the night to find her. He knew that in this weather, the little lamb wouldn’t last long. He searched the entire pasture, but couldn’t see anything but snow.

He started shouting, “Taru! Taru! Where are you?”

But there was no answer.

Frustrated that he couldn’t find her, Duarte did know someone who could. He bowed his head and prayed, “God, I can’t find Taru by myself, but with your help, I know I will find her and get her back safely.”

Duarte waited for the answer.

And God said, “Look again.”

“But, I’ve already looked everywhere,” said Duarte.

And God said, “Look again.”

Duarte glanced down. Just in front of him nearly buried by the snow was Taru. She was curled up and asleep.

Duarte quickly brushed away the snow and wrapped his warm body around the shivering lamb.

“Taru! Wake up! Its time to go home,” said Duarte.

“Its, its so cold,” said Taru shaking.

Duarte knew she was too weak to walk back to the barn. He would just wait out the storm and keep Taru warm. With his thick fur, the snow wouldn’t bother him.

Throughout the night the wind howled and the snow came down. But Taru was nice and warm underneath Duarte’s thick fur.

The next morning the snow stopped and the sun returned. Duarte nudged Taru.

“Good morning,” said Duarte. “How do you feel today?”

“Thanks to you I feel great,” said Taru.

“Its not safe to run away from the flock,” said Duarte. “You should always stay close to the rest of the sheep.”

“I know,” said Taru. “I just lay down to take a quick nap. When I woke up, everyone was gone and it was so dark and cold. I asked God to help me and he sent you. I am so glad you came to my farm.”

Taru snuggled up next to her hero. The little lamb’s affection moved him greatly. For the first time he felt he belonged.

“Things will be different here from now on,” thought Duarte.

The next day, Duarte greeted the sheep as they headed out to pasture. Even though they had all heard how he had risked his life to save Taru, the other sheep were still wary of the llama. Only Taru spoke to him.

“What’s wrong Duarte?” asked Taru as they followed the flock out to pasture.

“I thought the other sheep might be friendlier after they heard what I did for you,” said Duarte.

“Is that why you saved me?” asked Taru.

“Of course not,” said Duarte.

“You would have done that for any of the sheep because you are a good llama,” said Taru. “Don’t worry about what they think. In time, they will see that you have a good heart.”

Duarte smiled at Taru. She was very wise for such a little lamb.

That night Duarte prayed, “God, do I belong here? The sheep don’t seem to care if I’m here or not.”

“Sheep rarely understand the importance of a good shepherd until danger is near,” said God. “Duarte you are a good shepherd. In time, they will see this too.”

If God believed that Duarte was a good shepherd, there was nothing else to be said. No matter what the sheep said or did, Duarte would always trust God.

Several weeks later, Duarte was grazing near the flock when he noticed something strange. He raised his neck and scanned the field. The flock was busy eating and there didn’t seem to be anything wrong.

Just then the wind shifted and Duarte smelled something odd.

“There’s danger nearby,” said Duarte as he moved to a higher spot to look around.

Just across the field lying in the tall grass, a coyote was watching the flock.

Duarte immediately began shouting, “Danger! Danger! Everyone get away from the tall grass.”

The sheep were startled by Duarte’s sudden cry, but they quickly ran away from the tall grass.

The coyote was startled too. He was about to spring into action when the sheep had suddenly run away.

“What the heck is going on?” asked the coyote.

He rose up just in time to see Duarte charging at him. Not knowing who or what Duarte was, the coyote headed for the foothills.

“Is everyone ok?” asked Duarte.

The flock nervously looked at each other until one of the older rams stepped forward.

“Duarte, we owe you an apology,” said the ram. “We’ve been very rude to you. Will you please forgive us?”

“Of course I will,” said Duarte.

All the flock crowded around Duarte and thanked him for his protection.

From that day forward, every morning and evening Duarte would stand at the gate and greet the sheep. Each and every one would always thank him for being their good shepherd.



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