I had an unusual and exciting time last night. While opening a closet to get some paper towels, an ugly black rat suddenly jumped at me from out of nowhere. As if a flying rodent wasn’t enough to totally freak me out, it also ran right across my BARE feet, then scampered off SOMEWHERE into my house. Eeeeeewwww!
Once I finally stopped flailing my arms around violently and screaming with panic, I vacuumed and mopped my entire house, then took a steaming hot shower. It was a fruitless attempt to get rid of the feeling that the disgusting little creature had left with me. I guess I’m a little OCD, but I was pretty creeped out.
Meanwhile, my dog sat by quietly watching the drama unfold without so much as a whimper in my defense. I’m convinced that he and the rat are cohorts with some grand scheme to steal food from my pantry.
As a result of the random rodent attack, I became vigilant in preparing for an ongoing battle with the nasty critter. First, I researched “exterminating rats” on my computer for almost an hour and developed a plan. Then, I set four old-school mousetraps around my house. Opening closet doors was no longer a mindless act, but done with focus…and a broom-in-hand expecting a fight. Last, but not least, with great confidence and determination I declared out loud to the tiny hidden monster, “This war is ON!”
As I began searching my house this morning, in hopes to find my nemesis helplessly stranded in one of my traps, I began thinking about spiritual warfare.
My parents gave me the chore of weeding our garden as a kid, which I wasn’t very fond of. It was a constant, grueling battle between me and the weeds. If I didn’t do my job properly the nasty intruders would eventually choke out and kill the fruit we intended to grow.
The Bible has a similar warning against bad roots. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.”
If you’ve been hurt deeply by someone else, this is much easier said than done. I’ve been abused, molested, raped, conned, cheated on, lied to, slandered and mocked. I also raised my 21-year-old son without a dime of child support. Those things wounded me deeply and hurt for many years. However, God repeatedly pushed me to forgive. The closer I grew to Him, the more I found peace and freedom from the torment that consumed me. Then I began to live in victory, rather than as a victim.
However, was forgiveness enough? From time to time I still find myself thinking, “Why have they gotten away with their crimes? It’s not right. I wish they’d get what they deserve!”
Bitterness is like a weed. It has roots that grow fast and strong, which attempt to choke out the good fruit in my life. If I entertain vengeful thoughts for long, my heart starts racing and I become angry all over again. I was thinking about this a few days ago as I was driving to a prison in South Georgia to encourage inmates. God keeps using my experiences to help others who are hurting, which is amazing. But He has a funny way of always teaching me something too. There’s no doubt I had a divine appointment that day…and not just for the inmate’s benefit.
As a ten-year-old kid, I was an avid collector. My bedroom closet was full of things I had found, which included animal skulls, empty bottles, various insects pinned to a Styrofoam board, and every Star Wars trading card they ever made. I was proud of my collections and added to them whenever I got the chance. I knew my playthings were different from other girls my age who had closets full of dolls and stuffed animals, but having tea parties wasn’t in my realm of interest…being a scientist or pioneer was.
One rainy day when I was trapped inside, I found that my trading cards were great for building massive card houses. I spent hours meticulously stacking each one up to build a paper empire. The thick rough edges made the cards much better building blocks for strong, sturdy structures than the slick Bicycle playing cards I had tried previously. My fortress was as high as I could reach while standing on my toes and it covered the span of the floor in my playroom. I even set up action figures like GI Joe, the Bionic Woman, and the Lone Ranger around the perimeter to guard it from enemies…like my little brother.
Most of us look back on our high school days with fond memories and generally regard that time of our life with nostalgia. However, I want to tell you about a ninth grade girl whose life took a radical turn in one single moment. And her memories of “the good old days” are very different from ours.
At age 15, Keisha moved out of her parent’s home and started living with a friend. Any kid that would prefer to face the world without her mom and dad, must have had a hard life. One afternoon, while riding in a car with a young man she knew, they got into a heated argument. It was the final straw for Keisha. Years of pain bubbled to the surface and a dark rage boiled inside. She was done with being disrespected. When the vehicle came to a stop at the next light, Keisha took hold of a gun, put it to the boy’s temple, then pulled the trigger. That split second decision changed her life forever. While her friends had fun going to the movies, Prom and graduation, she sat alone in prison for felony murder.