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Paul Hayden

Carrying That Weight A Long Time?

June 10, 2024

Many of you would have seen the movie Shrek. Shrek is a fictional ogre with quite an attitude and a distinctive Scottish accent. He liked to be alone, didn't want to socialize much, and was, shall we say, grouchy. He enjoyed being dirty, crude, and unkempt.

Let me introduce you to another Shrek, who is much like Shrek in the movie. This Shrek captured the imagination of the people where he lived. He was a subject of conversation for years in New Zealand and Australia.

Shrek was a male sheep belonging to Bendigo Station, a sheep station near Tarras, New Zealand. He gained international fame in 2004 after he avoided being caught and shorn (sheared) for six years. Male sheep like Shrek are usually sheared annually, but Shrek hid in caves, avoiding being caught in the sheep gathering and shearing times, which are called musters.

Shrek was finally caught on April 15, 2004. The over-grown sheep, who looked like a walking, dark grey blimp, was sheared by a professional shearer in twenty minutes. The shearing was broadcast on national television in New Zealand. His fleece contained enough wool to make twenty large men's suits weighing sixty pounds.

Shrek became a national icon. In May 2004, he even met New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark to celebrate his tenth birthday. In November 2006, thirty months after his initial shearing, Shrek was shorn again on an iceberg floating off the coast of Dunedin, New Zealand. 

For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece. Why? Simply because he was lost or hid from his shepherd. That's a lot of weight, especially when hiding in caves and climbing high mountains to avoid being seen. There was not much companionship either. When the other sheep saw him, they probably thought he was a mutant, zombie sheep, or something like that. He wasn’t going to pull the wool over the other sheep’s eyes. Do ‘ewe’ know what I mean? That was 'baaaa-d.' Shrek the sheep was not “sheep-shape.”

Notice Shrek's downward spiral and then upward ascension. First, Shrek wandered away by himself. Then, he hid from the shepherd in caves, nooks, and crannies. Next, Shrek accumulated extra weight of his own doing. It was a weight he didn't need to carry, but he had it anyway. Sixty pounds of additional weight slowed him down to a crawl. It certainly made it challenging to balance on those craggy rocks and cliffs.

Shrek's predicament reminds me of us people, a type of sheep. We do the same thing Shrek did: wander, hide, get dirty, and accumulate the weight of broken relationships and wrong choices. We get lonely. We get needy. Then, we reap the consequences of what we have sown. Like that Beatles song says, "Boy, you ‘gotta’ carry that weight, a long time.”

A noted South African speaker, Greta Wiid, says it this way. "This reminds me of John 10 when Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and His followers are His sheep. Maybe it's a stretch, but I think Shrek is much like someone who knows (or knows about) Jesus Christ but has wandered. If we avoid Christ's constant refinement of our character, we will accumulate extra weight in this world - a weight we don't have to bear."

Somehow, during this time, the shepherds found Shrek or Shrek found them. A professional sheep shearer sheared Shrek's fleece off in twenty-eight minutes. Shrek's sixty-pound burden was removed in 28 minutes, and everything was 'sheep-shape.' All it took for Shrek was to find his shepherd.

Like Shrek, maybe we burdened-laden humans must do what the prodigal sheep did and return. God has one message for all of us hiding in caves: "Just come home!" No matter how far we wander, Jesus will always return to welcome us. God never departs from us, but it seems like humans only return to God when our problems and difficulties become too heavy to carry. 

Here’s a scripture verse from Matthew 11:28-30 for us today. This is Jesus talking. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Consider this story from an unknown author if you carry a big load of 'wool or weight' today. "One day, a biologist observed an ant carrying a piece of straw, which seemed an enormous burden. The ant came to a crack in the earth, which was too wide to cross. It stood for a time as though pondering the situation. Then the ant put the straw across the crack and walked across it as a span. 

Then the biologist said, "What a lesson for us. The burden can become the bridge for progress." Our mistakes and mishaps can become a bridge for progress if we return to the shepherd.

So, there is the real-life story of another Shrek. Now that you know him, why not learn from him?

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com