Friday, September 30, 2011

Impact's Importance


I was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and finishing up my devotional time when the latter was interrupted by a sudden noise out on the back deck. Thinking that it had to be something more than just the black walnut shells the squirrels have been dropping out of the tree like crazy of late, I looked out the glass door and was shocked to see a baby squirrel lying motionless on the wooden planks…again! The shock of the moment was doubled by the realization that the same thing happened almost to the day last year, as a subsequent journal entry later proved!

Last year when the disaster occurred, the baby almost immediately started moving around and hollering for help. Home alone at the time, I was eventually able to push it into a hole high up in the tree (see Extra Effort Required, September 21, 2010). This time, however, the infant appeared to be toast. Although still breathing, it lay motionless for so long that I figured it must be mortally wounded in some way. I decided to give it some time, and finished what I was doing. But nothing changed in the squirrel’s condition. Other adult squirrels actually ran past it without paying it the least attention as they made their way to dig in the planters on the deck railing or feast on the bird seed in the feeders. Deciding it was past rescue, I resolved to move it to the woods on the other side of the fence where nature could take its course without my dogs getting to it and ripping it to shreds. But when I emerged from the garage, broom and shovel in hand, I was amazed to see that the baby had suddenly rolled over onto its feet and was moving around drunkenly, all the while crying piteously! Apparently rescue was still an option on the table. This time I was not home alone, and while I waited for my husband to be available to help, sat back down to see what would happen next.

Looking out the window and up in the tree, I finally saw Squirrel Mama looking anxiously down at her baby. In doing some research after the fact last year I learned that a mother squirrel will eventually come and get her displaced young if given a chance. So I moved out of sight and began to pray fervently that the feat would be accomplished.

Sure enough, the mother squirrel s-l-o-w-l-y came down the tree, and then ever so cautiously made her way to the infant, which she then began rolling around and around, as if looking for a place on which to get a grip with her mouth. The youngster became more agitated with its mother nearby so the process took a bit of time. Finally she got a good hold on him, and then with amazing ease, bounded on to and up the tree! I held my breath for a minute, half expecting them both to come crashing back down, then raced to another window that afforded a better view. Both squirrels were long gone. I rejoiced at the “happily ever after” ending to a story that I had thought was (literally!) dead and done long before.

Amazingly, I’d been thinking about a name on my prayer list when the whole squirrel episode dropped from the tree and physically illustrated what God had been speaking to me moments before. I had come home from a church conference a year and a half ago with what is known as an Impact List, a wallet sized card on which to record the names of people to impact in some way spiritually, to somehow love into the Kingdom of God through prayer, fellowship or ministry of one type or another. High on my list was an individual who was likewise desperately in need of rescue, physically as well as spiritually. Out of a job for close to two years, he was now rapidly running out of options and hope. I’d been praying for him month after month with little visible results. Frankly, I was growing a little discouraged myself in the process, my hope for him beginning to look a lot like the motionless squirrel spread-eagled on the wooden planks of my back deck.

But God wouldn’t let me give up. I am amazed at the number of ways He spoke that message to me. I laughed when I looked on my fridge and found posted there the Italian phrase-of-the-week I had picked at random (or so I thought) out of a year’s worth of the same: Non arrenderti mai, which means “Never give up.”! I opened the newspaper only to see a story about a high school football player who was too short to be taken seriously by the college scouts, despite his great work ethic and many physical skills. On his upper arm was tattooed his motto: Never give up. And I was shocked when at work one day a coworker ended a random conversation with me with the comment, “Never give up, Elaine! Never give up!” Surely he must’ve wondered at the look I gave him, so startled was I to hear God’s words coming out of his mouth! And so I continued to pray.

And then suddenly one night there came a phone call from that very prayer project, who told me that he had been offered a good job and was heading back to work immediately! Even as we rejoiced together, I knew that the rescue was yet incomplete, however, I was thrilled to know it was underway! While salvation remained the ultimate goal, his immediate need was to be picked up from the floor of despair into which he’d fallen and had been lying unresponsive for so long. Just as the mother squirrel spun her baby around in her paws, looking for a place to get a grip, perhaps God does the same, allowing our life situations to roll us around awhile until just the right spot in our hearts is exposed, contact is made, and He can carry us Home.

It was the impact of the squirrel hitting the deck that got my attention that morning when I was busy doing something else. And perhaps that explains the same name of my prayer list, that the persistent petitioning on behalf of the people on it gets God’s attention, and moves His heart to respond.

I recall that several other squirrels ran past the baby during its moments of distress without paying it the least bit of attention. The rodent rescue was clearly the responsibility of the one that had the connection to it. And similarly there may be people in our circle of relationships whose names are not found on anybody else’s prayer list, making our dedication to the same of eternal importance.

Finally, it was amazing to me that the situation occurred in the same manner, two years running. Obviously I didn’t get the whole message the first time around. Last year when a squirrel fell from the sky in front of me the point was made that extra effort would be required to get those people whom life has dropped by the wayside back to where they need to be. This year I learned that the main focus of that effort has to be prayer.

When I came home from that church conference two years ago with my prayer list in my pocket, it became almost a point of honor among those of us who attended the event to be able to whip out our cards on a moment’s notice if asked. Yet no impact is made if all we do is write a bunch of names down on a slip of paper and then carry it around. Rescue happens when we drop to our knees with those names on our lips and truly begin to pray.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

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