Picture waking up in a castle in Wales that was first built in 1277. Outside the opened window are sounds of bleating sheep, mooing cows, and even the cry of peacocks. As you peer out the window, sheep are grazing on the green hillside without a care in the world. Another gentle shower has ended. The air is cool as it touches your skin and the freshness of it all is full-on therapy. Breathe deeply. Take it all in and experience the beauty of the moment through each of your senses. This is God’s beautiful creation in stillness and peace.
I recently stayed in this Medieval castle and experienced this very scenario. As we drove to this hidden gem, the fields and meadows along the road were covered with lavender and other wild flowers, but mostly dotted with sheep. They’re everywhere in Wales. As the road winds over the hills and through the valleys, occasionally it is lined with dense trees, literally mini-forests. It was a step back in time, and we wondered if Robin Hood and his merry men would actually appear. God’s creation of hills, valleys, forests and meadows is quaint and magical. He gave us all good things to enjoy.
Back at the castle, it is truly an amazing fortress of every feature you could ever imagine. At one time, a moat would have surrounded it. The front entrance is guarded by stone lions. In the back, a life-sized chess set is awaiting two contenders. Long hallways lit dimly by chandeliers are decorated with paintings of Edward I, Charles I Coat of Arms and the Welsh Dragon painted on slate, as well as the armor of knights standing tall in the corners. What else would you expect from a Medieval castle?
Upon exploring the gardens and grounds, you find hidden paths and remnants of rooms everywhere. Imagine the past 700+ years of history here…. battles and romance, knights, lords and ladies, feasts and fare. Ah, the intrigue of it all!
On one afternoon during my stay, the sheep were disappearing through a path in the trees. As I leaned out of the window, I was completely mesmerized watching them trail one another until there was only one sheep following far behind… limping. I felt compassion for this loner who was attempting to keep up with the flock. I wondered if it had fallen or if something had pierced its hoof. Prior to finally reaching the trees, it stopped… and slowly turned its head to look directly at me. I froze. Literally, it took my breath away. It was a God moment. You see, I had stayed behind that day (from watching our choir in a competition) to rest. I was feeling left behind. And as that sheep gazed at me, God spoke to my heart as if to say, “I see you. I know where you are. I will never leave you behind.”
After a moment, the lone sheep turned and slowly limped out of site through the trees. My heart was full knowing that God used that one sheep to tell me that He loves me and He cares about me.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29
If you’ve got a moment, listen to Bach’s Cantata No. 208, “Sheep May Safely Graze.” It is beauty for your ears and food for your soul. Soli Deo gloria.