This afternoon, a squirrel tried to run me off. If someone asked what I anticipated, when the morning got started, I wouldn’t have predicted a weird stand-off with a squirrel about, of all things, a nut.
I was already tender when it happened. After the morning I’d had, I headed out to the yard, seizing the thirty free minutes I had, to take my Bible, my journal, and a couple fat squares of dark chocolate outside. Here, I threw myself down in the yard, surly-toddler style, turned my face to the sun, and prayed that God do something now rather than later, as in this minute would be fine, and just change my life. Just on this one issue, around my most precious person, my daughter, ‘K, thanks.
Here’s what I know after living with myself for 39 years: this thinking of mine wouldn’t get better if left up to me. Because how often, when squeezed, as I had been squeezed that day, do we actively and practically take up good thinking? How often do we take our negative downward spiral and make healthy choices to shake it off? You might be an expert at this. I can raise my hand only if you call mindless ‘hearting’ while scrolling through Instagram healthy? No? Me neither.
Well, not today, Satan. Today, I would change my mood through real, actual, practical action: Bible reading. Please change these mad thoughts, Lord, through your Holy Word.
But first, this squirrel.
There was a click-click-click happening. That’s what got my attention. I unscrewed an eyeball, and looked up. Above my head, two-thirds of the way up a tree (it’s a tall one, with nuts, couldn’t tell you what kind, please don’t ask me to describe) was a squirrel, aimed head-first for the ground. He (I have assumed) held a nut between his two front paws, his back claws gripping the bark for Christmas, and he was performing a sort of undulation. A dance almost. And he was clicking at me.
This was only my second jaunt outside, the first one, a walk I had taken earlier with my daughter, before getting her to school. My anxiety today was high, the result of a long, stressful morning navigating a doctor’s wellness visit and some unforeseen struggles. None of the struggles were because of Dorothy, but they were all around Dorothy, and she wasn’t immune to them. By the time I dropped her at school, came home, and got myself outside a second time, I was angry. Fist-shakingly angry. Yelling to a friend over the phone angry. Tender-cry angry. This was our time, it’s precious, and we were losing it to uncontrollable circumstances that I could not circumnavigate, no matter how hard I tried.
By the time I went outside, that Bible in one hand, and chocolate in the other, it was clear, only God was getting me out of this one. I was alone, I was away from all distractions; it was time to pray, and be changed. Except this dum-dum squirrel, with his tiny little nut, and almost profane tree-dance, hanging over my head. He was clicking something fierce.
I’m not an “ooo, nature, trees, animals” type person. Even with working outdoors, and being a lifelong dog-owner, I have none of those commune-with-the-critters feels. You do you, I’ll do me, all us Sixth Day Creations. It’s cool.
This squirrel was not having it. “I don’t want your nut,” I called up to him. “Stop stressing.”
He kept clicking.
I opened my Bible.
Going to my Bible is new for me. I haven’t written much about it here, and now’s not the blog. Believe me when I say, I’m a new believer. Yet even I’ve heard of opening, at random, the Bible and seeing what the Word has to tell you, and so I do it. Sometimes, I find great wisdom. And sometimes I open to 1 Kings, where Solomon’s rhapsodizing over the cubits of this temple he’s building.
Today I made a safer bet, and went for the Psalms.
What Psalm, Lord?
Psalm 73, A Psalm of Asaph, Christian Standard Bible
Alright then, Lord.
I read aloud. To myself. And, I guess, the squirrel.
For I envied the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.73: 3
You have my attention, God. (click-click-click)
They are always at ease,
and they increase their wealth.73: 12
Still with You. (click-click-click)
Did I purify my heart
and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?
For I am afflicted all day long
and punished every morning.73: 13-14
OK, Brother Asaph here needs to stop reading my mail. I see why this psalm, Lord. Thank You.
But, please, continue. (click-click-click)
When I tried to understand all this it seemed hopeless
until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their destiny.73:16
Here’s where it gets good. Well, here’s where it makes my vindictive little heart happy. This is the place where Asaph reminds us, God’s not resting on His laurels, admiring His creation, while evil runs amok. Yep, evil’s there. But look, God is on this. There’s language about putting these bad’uns in slippery places, letting them fall to ruin. The word “despise” might be used, and I don’t know about you, but I do not want God and despise joined together against me. You don’t win that one, friend.
Yes, yes, YES, I thought.
When I became embittered
and my innermost being was wounded,
I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward you.73: 21-23
Wait a second. What? Let me just pause here. But, what about those bad guys, God? Because I was picking up everything You were putting down.
Except, here we are, and Asaph has brought us to this. Embittered. Wounded. Stupid.
I was an unthinking animal toward you.
I realized the clicking had stopped, and I looked up.
The squirrel had dropped his nut. He was still there, in exactly the same spot, still doing his squirrel dance. But that nut, the one he was guarding so ferociously from me, the one that caused him to freeze on the tree, and do his snake dance of squirrel terror? He’d dropped it.
That squirrel was so busy guarding his nut, he lost it.
It’s such a thin line. It’s a delicate dance, and not of the squirrel variety. Becoming so protective. Protection veering into angry. Angry turning to bitter. You have this nut, you want this nut, to have, and to enjoy it, it is all you see, keeping this nut. And then you lose your nut, and what was the point in the first place?
If I spend so much time trying to protect our time, and guard my kiddo, am I losing the actual right here and now we have? Did I drop the nut?
At least, I need to be aware, it could happen. Bitterness poisons and leads to nowhere fast. Days like today have happened, and are happening, and might keep happening. Yet the point of this, always, is Dorothy. The gift is the present moment we have.
Maybe my dance is of the squirrel variety.
Let me be clear, I don’t believe that God put a squirrel in a tree, protecting a nut, and this Psalm in my hand at this exact moment, to paint some Holy reminder to enjoy what I have with Dorothy and not let anger, bitterness, or fear eat me up. At least, I’m not sure if I believe that or not.
What is clear is Asaph wrote a song that applied to him, and applies to me, too. And maybe it’s applied to you, in your life? And it’s certainly arresting to read I was an unthinking animal toward You, God, only moments before watching an unthinking animal suffer an accident that I expect he regretted for at least a few moments, before his squirrel brain took off on a new tangent.
It’s hard, and dark, this place. Unthinking animal, who doesn’t understand, and slides into bitterness. This Psalm is hurting my mouth to read.
Before we give ourselves up to being as lost and hopeless as that poor, foolish squirrel, there’s this:
Yet I am always with you,
You hold my right hand.73: 22
Even as I write this here, I’m smiling. Because you see what happens? Asaph reminds himself, and us, we’re always with God. More importantly, Big-H He’s always with little-u us. I mean who holds hands with an unthinking animal? Oh, right, that All-Knowing, All-Loving, Most Merciful God. That’s who. Who doesn’t leave His children to fall? Yes, correct, God. That’s Who.
Psalm 73 ends brightly.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever.
Those far from you
will certainly perish;
you destroy all who are
unfaithful to you.
But as for me, God’s presence is my good.73: 26-27
I like how we get one more reminder that the wicked are coming to a bad end. Still, even here, the love of God outweighs the vengeance. Asaph reminds us of who we are, and who God is. So I consider today’s post my thank you and love note to God. For that dum-dum squirrel and Psalm 73. And I’ll finish with the last verse, the work we’re all here to do:
But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
so I can tell about all you do.73: 28
He’s got it together, this Asaph. What good fortune I turned to this Psalm. Dorothy, who I love, would call it a God-wink. Click-click-click. Wink-wink-wink.
Have any God-winks of your own to share? Please do. They’re such an encouragement to all of us.