The "messies" are back too. A mess in the basement, a mess in the critter room, a mess in the girls' bathroom ... with company coming and a community group party here this coming weekend.
So, I guess the raccoons are here at just the right time to remind me how to handle life (or how NOT to handle it) when it gets messy at just the wrong time.
Here's what a learned from raccoons just a few years ago:
A Lesson from a Raccoon
The night dripped with a strange sort of silence. The breeze barely brushed against the panes of my bedroom window. No cars passed outside. No sirens sounded. No dogs barked.
Then it came. A mysterious scraping on the outside deck. A rattle. A hiss. And the groan of wood dragged over the planks.
I nudged my husband, Bryan. “Did you hear that?”
The scraping came again, this time with an eerie creaking near our cat’s feeder. Something thumped.
Bryan rolled over. “It’s just the cat.”
“That is not the cat.” I sat up.
The quiet was broken by a loud crash.
I handed it to him, swung out of bed, and threw on my robe.
Together, we hurried to the door that led to the deck. Bryan flipped on the flashlight and shined the light into the darkness.
An animal-shaped shadow scuttled away from the beam.
I turned on the porch light and tossed open the door. The food dispenser lay sideways with cat food strew all over the wood planks beneath. I took the flashlight from Bryan’s hand and aimed it toward the corner of the deck.
The creature was still there. A masked bandit. The door slammed behind me.
The raccoon turned and sat up on its haunches. Then, it hissed and bared its teeth.
I grimaced. Raccoons were supposed to be cute and loveable. I even had a fluffy raccoon stuffed animal, complete with dark eyes, little mask, and tiny hands with opposable thumbs. But this creature crouched before me was anything but cute and loveable. It was ugly. It was nasty. And at that moment, I’d have been glad to never see another raccoon again.
I flashed the light at it one more time, stomped my feet, and waved my arms.
It gave one last hiss then scuttled off into the dark.
“Well, that was awful.” Bryan’s voice sounded behind me.
I turned and wrinkled my nose. “I think I hate raccoons.”
“I think I do, too.”
The next day, I put the raccoon out of my mind, until I again heard a strange silence. This time, the quietness came from the playroom where my four-year-old twins were supposed to be cleaning up toys. No little voices whispered. No little feet pattered. No sound came from the room at all. And that was never a good sign.
I hurried into the room, and sure enough, instead of cleaning up, every last game was opened and all the pieces were mixed together in the center of the carpet.
My face turned hot. My fists clenched. And then I let them have it. “What do you think you’re doing? I told you to clean up. Look at this mess!” I rattled. I hissed. I bared my teeth.
My girls’ eyes grew round. They backed away.
And then it hit me. Who’s the ugly raccoon now?
God gave me a gift of words, just like he gave the raccoon the gift of opposable thumbs. But just like the raccoon, I was using my gift to take from others. I may not have been stealing cat food, but I was certainly stealing their joy. And that was just as ugly as a raccoon’s hiss.
I took a deep breath. “Please clean that up before community group tonight.” Then, I left the room.
I could hear the clink of game pieces being put away as I started toward the kitchen. I shook my head. All I had to do was ask, but instead I had chosen to use my gifts, my words, my voice, to tear down instead of build up.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I don’t need to hiss and become ugly when others don’t do what I want. I don’t need to use my abilities to attack.
Instead, God wants me to use the power of words, use the gifts He has given to me, to help others, to give, to serve, to be kind and caring. I don’t want to be like a raccoon – loveable only in theory, but ugly in reality. The real me needs to be kind, thoughtful, encouraging, and giving.
From now on, I want to use my gifts to bless others and help them, or else someone may just chase me away into the dark.