Bats, maggots, mice, and porcupines! What do you think they have in common? I found out when these pesky, annoying, and just plain gross varmints threatened to ruin any chance I had of getting rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, and refreshment while my husband and I were taking a short getaway! These creatures did a great job getting and keeping my attention on them and off of Jesus! So what do they have in common? They are attention stealers!
My husband and I have a little place on my Dad’s land we call “The Sanctuary”! It’s a place we can be free from everyday encumbrances such as internet and cell phone coverage which are scarce and intermittent. We are independent from public energy sources using solar power for electricity, rain for our water source, and a composting toilet in the outhouse. We generally go to bed when it gets dark and get up when the sun rises assuming we can sleep through the scurrying, scratching, and other mysterious animal sounds on any given night!
My Dad thinks our animal adventures are hilarious and often wishes he had a hidden camera to record them all. Thanks, Dad! First, let me tell you about the bats. We understand God’s great plan for bats but that doesn’t mean we like our interactions with them to be up close and personal. For example many years ago when we were on a one-year vicarage (student-pastorate), we lived in a bat-infested house. We would find them on the steps when we left the house or wake to them in the mornings as they took siestas on our foreheads or did fly-by’s over our bed!
On this trip while getting tools out of the shed, my husband had a surprise bat visit. Close quarters with a bat is never a favorable situation for the human. Another time he was brushing his teeth outside and heard little “squeaks”! He looked down by his feet to see a bat spreading its wings, unable to move because of dew on its body. Apparently it either wanted a little help or was terribly frightened of the towering figure above him so was trying to intimidate with squeaks. My husband had compassion on this creature so instead of going for the tennis racket he suggested we throw a towel over the bat and bring it inside so I could warm its shivering body. Ummm…No!
Because of these bat sightings I was a little on edge, having a hard time relaxing! So one morning while sweeping floors and shaking rugs, I was also on the lookout for any signs of bats. Instead I was unexpectedly disgusted to find little white maggots on the floor, curling up to avoid detection as the broom came close. I was sufficiently creeped out but I put on my big girl pants and went about finding the source! If I found where they came from I could get rid of them, in theory. However, I couldn’t find the where they came from and where they thought they were going! We have no refrigeration at the sanctuary so we buy food as we go and there wasn’t anything rotten or even sitting out! The garbage consisted of paper and other non-food items with no food scraps or wrappers. There was nothing to attract maggots but they were everywhere! I sprayed poison on them, swept up the dead ones, sprayed and swept some more, but every time I came back, more maggots. Yuck!
So now I had bats and maggots on my mind all the time! How was I supposed to rest? Night time as everyone knows is when our imaginations can really have a heyday! Very few things unnerve me more than hearing scurrying mice in the walls because I wonder what else is happening in there, what are they eating and what are they leaving behind? Mice are some pretty sneaky rascals. They would wait night after night until I was asleep and then wake me up with their scampering. It’s one thing to sing about them in songs or nursery rhymes but not so much fun in real life… Three Blind Mice? Hickory Dickory Dock? Not cute when they are darting through your walls, or dashing around your feet! We had poison and sticky traps in place when we were gone but thought our presence was enough to keep them out while we were on sight! But alas they had other plans.
These mice didn’t just wake me at night but they teased us throughout the day as well and we found ourselves chasing these nimble creatures around in circles, losing handily every time. We got so frustrated we resorted to opening doors and removing window screens, offering them a peaceful escape as we shouted “You win! Run away! Go! You are free as birds now… I mean free as mice!”
We couldn’t leave the doors and windows open too long because then the squirrels thought they were welcome to join our household. Yikes! Though we never saw any mice leave the house we hoped they had found their way out! As we got ready to climb into bed on night, I casually mentioned, “I wonder if our little friend made it out today”! As if on cue, he came scuttling out from under our bed, with us quickly in tow, once again looking foolish as we chased this tiny creature, trying to establish reign in OUR house again!
We finally cornered him in the spare bedroom! Armed with shoes and dust pans to kill, blocking every possible escape, wouldn’t you know, we STILL couldn’t find the little dude! So we closed the door and blocked him in for the night. Of course that didn’t stop him from scratching most of the night trying to escape. Or maybe it was just payback time. At any rate, he seemed to be having a lot of fun at our expense.
Okay! Bats, maggots, mice! Rejuvenation for me seemed impossible with these nuisances! One evening I was finally able to put them out of mind while enjoying some knitting. Then we heard clatter on the front porch. Assuming it was a raccoon my husband got the flashlight and shining it out to the porch he immediately hollered, “Come here Julie. You’ve got to see this! It’s a huge porcupine!” Are you kidding me? I got to the window in time to see the biggest porcupine I ever saw (well, I’ve never seen one this close up and personal). We continued watching and shining as he took his own sweet time moseying out to the woods. Somehow I didn’t like the thought of him so near!
After several days of being antagonized by these pests, I realized I was stressed, on guard, leery, and completely frustrated by them. It’s tough to relax in this state much less be refreshed! Not to mention I couldn’t concentrate on Jesus, praying, reading His Word, or worship because I was so focused on these nasty creatures. That’s when it hit me! Not only was I letting these “things” steal my attention and enjoyment of our vacation, but they were keeping my eyes on them and off of Jesus! I was more aware of what they were doing than what God was doing!
I was shocked to discover how easily this happened without any awareness on my part! It might seem like a little thing but it was a great lesson on how easily our eyes shift from the living God to the living things of this world. I know to keep my eyes looking up to the Lord yet here I was looking down at all these things bugging me. Psalm 121:1-2 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
Sure, these were just bats, maggots, mice, and a porcupine! But if these little things were able to capture and hold my attention, keeping my eyes locked on earth, what was going to happen when bigger things come along to capture my attention? (That’s rhetorical!)
When Jesus was in the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath Day, He read how the Spirit of the Lord was on Him because He was anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, give sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. When he closed the book, returned it to the attendant and sat down, the Bible says “And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” (Luke 4:20)
The question Jesus asks us today is “Are our eyes fixed on Him”? What a difference fixing our eyes on Jesus makes instead of fixing them on anything and everything else. It’s amazing to think how God can teach us things in the smallest, seemingly insignificant situations! If only I would have remembered to take my thoughts about these unpleasant creatures into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). How that would have helped and allowed me to get refreshed in the midst of this disagreeable situation!
Some of you reading this might think it’s ridiculous to think God would use bats, maggots, mice, and porcupines to teach us something about our relationship with Him! But I’m here to say – He did and He does! My attitude changed real quickly once I got my eyes back on Jesus even though the situation didn’t change much at all! The bats? They were still around! The maggots? I think I got ‘em all! The mice – they keep coming though the one cornered in the room succumbed to our sticky trap and a little bop on the head! And that porcupine? We didn’t see him again and hope not to!
What is an attention stealer in your life today? Is it something as innocent as these little rascals, something serious as disease or death, or something in between? Whatever it is – fix your eyes on Jesus and take all your thoughts captive into obedience to Him! Then watch and see what He will do in you!