A few days ago I saw a possum sneak into our garage. Just so you understand the lay of the land, our garage is detached from the house and is about 10 yards from the door. I chased after the ugly critter, but it went behind the boxes and boards stored against the back wall. I tried to scare it out but did not have time to tear the whole garage apart. I don’t know about your garage, but mine is like a jigsaw puzzle. Needing to leave for work I decided to leave the garage door open a crack, hoping the visitor would leave of its own accord. Um, no. A day or two later I got a text message from my wife – “There’s poop in the garage!” O great, the ugly thing has moved in and begun to leave presents, just in time for Christmas. A few days later, and several more poop sightings I decided that I had to find the critter since it was not leaving on its own.
After moving boxes, the grill, and other assorted items I found the possum hiding in the back corner. Finding it was one problem, getting it out was another. Using a shovel as a prod I finally got the critter to move. Unfortunately, it ran by me and under the Miata instead of going out the wide open garage door. I gave chase but never did find the animal. My suspicion and hope were that while I was looking under the car it was leaving by the front door. But that was not the case. For a few days, I watched for more “evidence” but did not find any. Just in case, I bought and set up a live trap, baiting it with some of the Christmas leftovers. The next morning I found the possum safely trapped. Contrary to my wife’s desire I took the trap behind our barn and let the critter go.
We can have similar experiences in our lives. Our day can be going wonderfully and then someone sneaks in, says or does something ugly, and leaves us to deal with the poop. Our joy is turned to despair, our gladness to anger, our love to hate, our peace to turmoil. Perhaps it happened to you over the holidays, or during a family outing, or even last Sunday at church. Those words become an unwanted visitor. Not only affecting the moment but leaving little smelly reminders in the days that follow. Like the possum, these thoughts hide in the corner of our souls and are difficult to remove. We can try to ignore them but, at some point in time, they remind us of their presence.
How do we remove our unwelcomed visitor? First of all, we need to remove the clutter they hide behind. 1 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us that love does not keep a record of wrongs (NIV). By holding onto the offenses of others we provide a hiding place for more offense. The clutter could also be our own sins such as the prideful judgment of others or the importance of me and mine. Secondly, we need to take action. Our unwelcome guest will not leave on their own accord. We must reject the words, chasing them away with love and forgiveness. I have found praise, worship, and taking the thought captive according to 2 Corinthians 10:5 to be an effective live trap in these instances. Finally, we must return our focus to Christ as the writer of Hebrews encourages, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1–2a, NASB95) The unwelcome words will not leave on their own, we need to take action in order to keep our focus on Christ.
I know that I may have to deal with an unwelcome critter sometime in the future. My only prayer is that it is not a skunk. I also know that sometime in the future, when I least expect it, someone is going to say or do something that will annoy me. That will create anger, frustration, or any of a number of unwanted emotions. By design, by accident, or by my own sin, their words will take my eyes away from Jesus. I may not be able to prevent it but, hopefully, I am better equipped to handle it quickly and with a lot less poop.