There’s a woman I’ve noticed at my swimming pool who carries a bag with her that says, ‘I’m the black sheep, every family has one.’
I’ve watched her at the pool, and she strikes me as an individual who is quite happy for it to be known that she doesn’t run with the crowd; she’s free to do what she wants, any old time. I admire this, and in many ways, I can relate.
When I was in high school, I was thought to be a ‘good girl’, but not one who is willing to conform to external standards. I was prepared to rock the boat of tradition which didn’t fly with those who had the authority to allow or deny. In my family, I was always accepted and loved but still seen as a little bit quirky, a little bit different. I liked it – to some degree. My family didn’t understand me but had the grace not to lay down unrealistic expectations for their approval.
I didn’t want to be someone who was prepared to accept the status quo of life, buying into the white picket fence, 2 and 1/4 kids, marriage and a 9-5 job. Instead, I decided to escape societal expectations and hit the road. Fortunately for me, in my travelling (and searching), I came face to face with the One who could offer me a life free from those bland, conformist expectations.
Since meeting Christ, and growing older, I have managed to fulfil many of those usual societal milestones – I did get married and had two kids. I have ended up with a house with a fence (black instead of white), and I’m okay with that. I am no longer bound but am free to choose.
The woman at the swimming pool got me thinking about what it means to be a black sheep. In ancient days, the stigma of the black sheep meant your wool had no value. It couldn’t be dyed, and while for some cultures the connotation was intended for good (a black sheep in England was considered fortunate or a good omen), in today’s vernacular, it means you don’t meet the expected standards. You’re not quite right, and you don’t fit in.
While some people have decided to ‘own’ being the black sheep and are proud to parade as someone non-conformist and individual, for me I often wonder if there’s a heart that just longs to be valued and appreciated for existing.
Every person on the planet longs to know they are valued. When we are labelled as the black sheep of the family, people will quite regularly allow this to define who they are – whether positive or negative. At the heart of it, though, is a lack of acceptance for just being. Parents think their black sheep children are ‘not quite right’, or ‘not quite like the rest of us.’ The real grief comes when they are treated that way too.
Jesus is the Lamb of God. The perfect, pure, sinless Son of God. The eternal sacrifice, who shed his righteous blood at Golgotha, making atonement for the whole of humankind. He is the Son who was separated from His Father, who was shunned when He took the weight of the sin of the world on His shoulders. He momentarily became the black sheep of the family.
His sacrifice has means that in God’s family, there are no black sheep. We are accepted by the Beloved and created before the foundation of the world for good things.
All of our quirks, our idiosyncrasies, are encouraged. We are called to be unique, to develop our gifts and talents. God intends it that way. Rejection is never of God. He has made a way for us to be called His. Perfect, beautiful, righteous, beloved.