“I have had enough, God,” I scream soundlessly in half light of the pre-dawn. The words reverberate around my head, tumbling and jostling with all the other stuff in there.
I had come here to clear my head. Normally I love the familiar view of the park spread out like a patchwork below me. Springtime has always been one of my favourite seasons with the countryside waking from its long winter sleep.
I see trees dusted white and pink with early spring blossom, various shades of greens foliage as trees come into leaf; others still bare, their branches forming dark silhouettes against the early morning sky. Just across the muddy path is a field full of wild flowers and at the edge by the hedge I can see bluebells and yellow primroses. Cows or horses often graze there, but this morning I see it contains a small herd of sheep .
I actually like animals. When I was small, my favourite film was “Bambi”, the birds and animals spring cleaning; I would hum the music, jumping in the park pretending to be one of the animals. When my own children were young we would watch the video version, cosily snuggled together on the sofa.
Now my children are grown, but spring still heralds the start of a new year. On the sixth of April I draw a neat line under the previous year’s accounts, and start a new financial year with a crisp blank sheet. Only this year it is my LIFE that has a vicious, thick, black line drawn through it.
Until a month ago I was in a seemingly secure and well-paid job, but a few words from my boss changed all that. In an instant, everything tumbled down ,shattered into a thousand pieces and scattered over the office floor.
There is no kind way to say it; the outcome is the same however it is phrased. Redundant, surplus to requirements, no longer needed, push off, vamoose, scat, Kaput, on the rubbish heap, worthless.
Twenty five years working there, but now it's all over.
I haven’t told people at church partly because I am ashamed, but also I don’t want their trite remarks about ‘God's will’’ and "one door closes and another opens". Actually I haven’t even told the wife yet. I catch the train as usual in the morning and go to the library or ride around a bit on the trains.
There is not much chance of getting another job at my age, too many spring chickens, plenty of fresh keen youngsters with degrees and qualifications that seem to count for more than my hard work and experience.
Anger and despair wells up again, a sick, bitter taste in my mouth,
“It's not fair,” I shout out loudly this time
“Be a Sheep”
“What?” I exclaim incredulously
“Stewart! Be a sheep”
“Look now God, hold on one sec. You must be joking, surely? I am 50 years old and still a respected deacon at Westfield Evangelical Church. I am NOT in the habit of pretending to be a sheep.”
“Stewart. I want you to be a sheep”
I feel decidedly sheepish. I look carefully around to make sure there are no early morning dog walkers in the park as I cross the path and climb gingerly over the barbed wire fence to join the sheep.
The grass is only very slightly damp as I lie down on my tummy feeling quite embarrassed.
“Right God. Here I am being a sheep. I just hope no one sees me or they will cart me off to the funny farm! So what next? “
“My sheep hear my voice. Just be still and listen “
Actually the world seems different from down here, each emerald green blade of grass, fresh and new. I can see each leaf on the tree and looking upwards through the branches ,I see fluffy white clouds scudding by. I listen to the soothing sounds of my companions munching and rustling, unperturbed by a new race of sheep in their midst.
I smile at the new spring lambs cuddling up to their mums. Maybe life as a sheep would not be too bad as long I am looked after properly.
I rest there quietly pondering and ruminating about sheep and realise I don’t need to DO anything just BE. Gradually my cares begin to roll off as if removing a heavy woolly coat. I feel lighter and my soul is restored in the quietness.
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