Life and FaithPhilosophyPolitics and Current Events

Squirrel Life

A pair of squirrels is playing tag in the autumn sun: around the fir, across my porch, over my roof. They flirt their tails and chirrup, they thunder boldly through the day, through life. Perhaps I envy them their simple lives—unworried about elections or the future. Yet, the squirrel can’t think about the fact that it is a squirrel. It can’t wonder what the purpose of its life is or if it matters in the world and the universe. A squirrel simply is. It fears predators and looks for food; it mates and bears young. The squirrel sails into the pumpkin on the porch with his tiny, fur-fringed hands; he turns brusque and reprimands when someone gets too close to him.

I, however, am not a squirrel. I get frustrated over elections. I am anxious about the future of our country and world, about the future for my niece and nephew, for the child being born today. I grew up with old-fashioned ideals and aspirations, with courtesy and a deep appreciation for human life. I grew up with a sense of wonder, with an awe of the numinous, with a firm belief that there is hope outside of my small self.

I grew up much like a squirrel. Like squirrels, people worked to make a home and provide meals. Fears were few and obvious, or so it seemed at first. I didn’t know cancer or divorce from personal places. War was in the Gulf, policemen were valiant and safe. Right and wrong were easy to discern. The people where I lived were the comfortable, trustworthy sort. Terrifying things were “out there”, not inside my safe world. But the borders of safety were breached. Evil and Sorrow and Death crossed the threshold. Not far behind were Uncertainty and Fear. I discovered that hard things, scary things were outside of my parents’ control, and certainly outside of mine. Squirrel-life shattered.

Sometimes I don’t like the realities and responsibilities that come with sentient, incarnational human-life. I don’t always appreciate the boon (or burden?) of being able to question if there is reality or if truth exists and is knowable. At times I let fear paint the picture that life is dark and crumbling and frightening. I let in the lies that marriage will fail, that motherhood steals one’s identity and is stifling, that tyranny and the ungodly will win.

Truth did not shatter with squirrel-life, however. Truth, in fact, illuminates life and gives me a clearer view. When the enemy of our souls portrays shadowy, suspenseful, formidable scenes of what life is for or is going to be, God stirs up the embers of truth. When the fire of truth is blazing it casts the shadows away, it gives me light to see that there is hope, there is redemption. All manner of things shall be made well. Sadness will come untrue.

When shadow-lies are shot-through with truth’s light, beauty and goodness gleam: as Christians we are the bride to a Bridegroom who will never desert or abandon us—he remains faithful, even when we are faithless. Marriage will not fail ultimately. I am reminded that children are a joy, that they deepen us and our ability to love and to sacrifice. Being a mother is part of one’s identity if they are called to that, but it does not mean they have to give up all the rest of their giftings. Mothers, in fact, change the world through their ideas, the truth they speak, and through their children, too. In the bright light of the truth I am reminded that Christians throughout history have faced wicked governments, evil oppression, violence, death, and injustice. Many in other countries face these things today. But evil cannot exist without the good thing it mocks and twists. And one day, if not now, it will be done away an the good, the true, and the beautiful will stand solid and bright and real.

Our salvation does not come through politics and laws. If those things we’ve looked to save us begin to crush us, they reveal themselves as the false gods they are. Some trust in chariots, some in horses—some trust in presidents and some in their own way of life—to save them, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). And even if, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we must face the furnace, we still need not bow down to false gods. We will rise and stand upright (Psalm 20:8).

Like those men before us, we know that God can save us; even if he chooses not to deliver us from the fire, we are not lost. Our destination is sure and steady—even if we have wracked our limited minds over the questions of truth and certainty and reality. We question, we seek certainty, we have that uncomfortable gift of knowing that we don’t know it all. We walk in the questions, and we walk by faith. In that balance we thunder boldly through the days and we thunder through life, not like squirrels, but like the sons of God we are.

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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