I set the puppy in the grass. Ghostly clouds of white mosquitoes rise from the verge and trail after me. “Breakfast is served!” they whine. Avon Skin-So-Soft is becoming my second-best friend.
In our neck of the woods, some mosquitoes carry the deadly West Nile Virus. I remind myself this is out of my control. I lay that worry at God’s feet and breathe in the briny wind.
Still, it reminds me of walking early to the barn one winter. In the far back pen, a ewe expelled the second of her lambs, licking it eagerly. I leaned on the rail, sighing happily at the new arrivals. Their breaths rose in the frosty air. I squatted to look closer.
Despite the cold, the barn smelled warm nearer the ground, saline and blood poured out in love and sweat, silky lanolin gleaming on wool. I smiled at the new babies–wondered what sex they were, imagined the rough feel of their fleeces.
Then I squinted, trying to make sense of the first lamb. My heart thudded in my chest.
I picked up the tiny black ewe, cataloging her parts. Her woolly spine twisted like a corkscrew. Her legs splayed at odd angles, all four jointed like front legs–no back ones. Her lower jaw was missing. The lamb breathed shallowly, struggling to cry.
The lamb’s mother bellowed for her return.
I was once a teenage runaway, bellowing in my heart, peddling angrily into the night, my face wet. My bicycle basket overflowed with hastily-grabbed clothing and a toothbrush. I didn’t know where to go. Only away. I stayed in a barn for two weeks, then other places.
Like that lamb, I struggled to breathe, broken in every part of my corkscrewed mind and spirit. I was dying inside.
But I didn’t know anyone who wanted me back.
The ewe pawed her lamb. It couldn’t stand and nuzzle its way down her belly to the life-giving udder. Its defects, possibly caused by a mosquito-borne virus early in pregnancy, were insurmountable in this world. No veterinarian could stop the inevitable.
Some people thought that about me.
For ten years after I ran away, abuse was my comfort zone, depression my blanket–between visits to church on Sundays. But even the day I perched on a tenth-story windowsill and prepared to fly down to the sidewalk couldn’t thwart God’s love or plan for me.
He is the Great Physician, the Incomparable Healer, and it turns out He makes house calls. He saved me that night and forever after. Over the next decades He untwisted my heart and mind and made me whole in ways I’d never imagined.
I could only leave the lamb to die in it’s mother’s comfort, in the oil of her fleece. But God can do anything. He stood me upright, like a beautiful tree. The healing oil of His love and mercy soothed my pain.
This world can hurt us and knock us down. It can even kill us. But all the deadly mosquitoes and other bloodsuckers will eventually get smacked and fall because God, through Jesus, smacked down death once and for all to make us rise whole and clean.
Isaiah 61:3 says God gives His lambs who cry out to Him “…beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”