Too Much of a Good Thing

Some years ago I was flipping through channels and saw a news story about a sheep who had become famous in New Zealand. She had been given the name Shrek. What a Disney ogre has to do with sheep is anyone’s guess, but the story got my attention…

…and then it changed my life.

Shrek was known throughout the shepherding community. She was a runaway who had been hiding up in the mountains for six years, and managed to elude recapture several times before the shepherds finally gave up and stopped responding to “Shrek sightings.”

Then one day the shepherds got a call from a woman who was hiking up in the mountains. She said she was standing right in front of Shrek and that they could come up and get her. They told the woman, who obviously lived under a rock, that she was not the first person who had gotten so close to the animal. They assured her that by the time they took a man away from his work, gassed up the Jeep, and drove the hour or so up into the hills, Shrek would be long gone, no doubt laughing (if sheep laugh) at the latest mister who missed her.

“Shrek won’t run,” the woman promised them. “She can’t run.”

The woman took a picture with her phone and sent it down. Shrek was carrying so much wool on her body that running had become at best an impossible dream.

Here’s a little-known fact about our wooly friends: Sheep born and raised in the mountains never find themselves with too much wool. They only grow what they need to survive. Domestic sheep, on the other hand, are sheered, which causes their wool to grow wild and out of control. Regularly relieving them of it, while good for business, is also necessary for their health and survival.

So after six years away from the clippers, it’s no surprise that Shrek was a bit heavy in the hooves. The shepherds came up and got her. The video showed her trying to take a step back when they approached, but she moved like a 300 lb man 1 six-pack, 2 pizzas and 3 quarters into a one-sided football game. You ever ask that guy to take out the trash? A head turn, a shift, a grunt, and he gives up.

I remember thinking Shrek looked kind of arrogant with all that wool on her, like she knew she had something people wanted, but she had — and used — the power to withhold it. Can you relate to that?

What’s your wool? What, among your many talents and abilities, is the most obvious and useful to those around you? Are you holding it hostage?

I’m a writer. That’s my wool. For years I kept it close, only pouring into my journals or waxing poetic onstage when I preached. Aside from that, I was stingy because I had been hurt in the past, taken advantage of by people who didn’t care for me past what I could write for them.

I cultivated my other gifts, speaking, teaching, creating, shepherding leaders and others and offered those up instead. For years I said, “Leave my wool to me! Look at my leather, my milk, and my meat!” When I saw Shrek though, something clicked.

I’m a “domesticated” sheep. I have countless ideas, and piles of things I have written, not because I am so special, but because I BELONG TO A SHEPHERD who caused my wool to grow.

We’ve all been cheated or taken advantage of. We have all been misused and abused for our gifts. If our gift is worth anything — and all gifts are — there will be times when we are lonely because we will offer ourselves to others and they will cling only to what they need and ignore the rest of us.

To be sure, there are poachers and thieves ready to take what they did not earn, and some of what you have will get away from you through painful lessons. Still, what you have is not your own. It was given to you to be given through you. Let it go and there will always be more of it.

The way to most of what you have to offer the world goes through your most obvious gift or talent. If I write my books, perhaps I’ll get to speak or teach about what I have written. If I get my stories out, maybe I’ll make room for more.

If I write…

Shrek was carrying 62 lbs. of merino wool on her back, enough for 20 men’s suits. She was sheered and the money generated from the event was given to a local charity.

What are you carrying around that people need? What are you holding onto that defines you in the eyes of others and gives you relevance in your community? What space are you refusing to fill?

Do you have too much of a good thing?