Several years ago my kids began asking begging for a pet.
“Puulleeaassee, Mom! Can we get a pet? Can we please? Can we please? Can we please, please, PLEASE!?”
Everyday they would ask, and everyday I firmly stood my ground, “Not until you’re older and can take care of a pet.” (I knew the allure of the pet would quickly dissipate leaving me with the responsibility to care for an animal in addition to our young and growing family.)
But slowly, over time, like rain eroding a mountainside, I noticed my husband’s resolve begin to wear thin. He started saying things like, “A pet would be good for the kids. It would teach them to love God’s creation, value life and learn to be responsible.”
Blah, blah, blah.
Then one fateful day, Gregg called me from Petco.
His appeal sounded something like this, “What do you think about getting pet rats for the kids?”
Bless. His. Heart.
“You’re kidding, right?”
Then he continued to build his case, “No, I’m totally serious. These are domestic rats. I had them for pets when I was a kid. They’re really sociable, good with kids, clean, cost $3 and only live about 2 years. Rats are a low-commitment pet.”
Somehow our pre-martial sessions didn’t cover appropriate pet options, but I liked the idea of a $3, low-commitment pet.
And with the understanding that I would not have to see, smell, touch or care for these little rodents, I reluctantly agreed.
After about a week, we began to notice that our two newly purchased rats, Snowball and Charlie, were looking a little plump. Gregg took them to the vet (yes, a vet for rats. Suddenly our $3 investment was ballooning).
Apparently, my children had chosen two pregnant rats and within a couple of weeks following our minimal, low-commitment pet purchase, we became the proud owners of 16 rats!
Petco agreed to take the babies from us, but not until they were weaned…eight weeks later!
Then my husband left town on a business trip.
The rats that were supposedly a low-commitment pet that I didn’t have to see, smell, touch or care for, now became my responsibility.
My children were a great help, but at the time they were only 6, 4 and 1 years of age so they could only do so much. We developed a routine that seemed to work. They held and entertained the two mommies while I cared for all 14 of the little babies.
Everything was going well and running smooth, until something went terribly wrong – and I mean it REALLY WENT WRONG!
One afternoon while attending to my daily “rat duty”, the baby rats began jumping out of their crate! Like oil popping in a pan, these little critters saw an opportunity to escape and took it. They were quick, too, and one by one they began bolting out of the room.
I’d catch one and then lose two.
I literally had 16 tiny rats running unrestrained in my home – dodging through doors, slipping under beds.
I was living a nightmare!
After much time, many attempts and on the brink of physical exhaustion, I gave up and went to bed.
NO WAY! Not an option – EVER!
I would not dare close my eyes if there were even the slightest chance of those 16 rats invading my bed and crawling on me during the night. Even if it meant staying up all night, I refused to rest until all of the rats were eradicated from our living spaces and confined to their crates.
It took some time, diligence, perseverance and hard work, but with the help of a friend, together we were finally able to corral all of the rats, securing them safely back in their crates.
Which got me thinking…
What would my life look like if I applied the same amount of diligence to tending my heart?
How fiercely do I protect my heart from the little creatures seeking to run unrestrained?
How ruthless am I to catch the ugly thoughts and attitudes that daily creep into my heart and spill into my home?
The Song of Solomon admonishes us,
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. Song of Solomon 2:15
God created us to flourish!
To abound in fruitfulness.
But it’s often our neglect of tending our vineyard that hinders our fruitfulness for God.
It’s the little foxes (or in my case, the rats) we fail to catch – pests that wreak havoc in our lives spoiling our relationships and our ability to be fruitful for Christ.
These little critters spoil our hearts, spilling damage into our homes.
“Little foxes” like…
- Complaining (Numbers 11:1-2; Philippians 2:14)
- Fear (Isaiah 41:10)
- Worry (Matthew 6:25-33)
- Gossip (Psalm 19:14)
- Discouragement (Joshua 1:5-9)
- Unforgiveness (Ephesians 4:32)
At first glance, they may not seem so bad. In fact, the tendency is often to justify their presence. Sometimes I even find myself making excuses for their activity in my life, minimizing their influence on my heart and family.
But don’t be fooled, they will destroy. They will ravage and spoil your heart and before you know it, your life – instead of flourishing and fruitful – will have a stench like when something goes bad in your refrigerator or a loose rat that dies in one of your walls.
Dear friend, tend your vineyard! Catch the little foxes. Don’t allow them to ravage your heart and wreak havoc in your home.
As you’re diligent to do this, God’s truth will begin to transform you.
Then your life will flourish with a fruitfulness that germinates the presence of God to those around you.
Not the stink of a rotting vineyard, but a pleasant aroma drawing others to Christ.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15
What little foxes do you need to catch? What is a corresponding scripture you can use to corral that critter and keep the vineyard of your heart and home clean?