Tuesday after Easter. Just another day. But I have resurrection from the dead and salvation on my mind, more than on a usual day. You know the after-effects of post-holiday, when life settles down to normal, whatever “normal” is? And I can’t get that tiny creature held in my hand on Easter Sunday out of my mind on Tuesday.
He postponed our Easter meal, that newborn life. Swaddled in a crimson-colored kitchen towel, my husband called us from all corners of the house to come and see the naked, rolled upon, and nearly snuffed out new life. Todd rescued him from the body and fangs of our dog, Rose.
With foil covering roasted lamb and lids on all side dishes, we researched how to save a newborn opossum, which is what my husband said it was. He had raised them when he was ten, so he said he knew it was an opposum. I called our vet, interrupting her own Easter dinner.
Because how can one just go on with their life when there’s a life about to die?
Nick rushed to retrieve the First Aid kit where syringe is kept. I mixed the egg yolk, honey, milk, and pinch of salt. And I held that creature upright in my hand, inserting the plastic tip into its receptive mouth. We all watched it gulp down liquid life. And ever so gently, I placed the creature in a soft nest of tissues.
And then, the let-down . . .
We discovered the creature was not an opossum. The nose wasn’t pointy. It was a vole, I said.
The comparative Internet images proved, I thought. Before bed, Nick rescued yet another “vole” from the death-fangs of our Labrador retriever. Todd advised we throw them out. After all, they were only “voles”, useless varmints. But I couldn’t. They didn’t even have their eyes open and could hardly crawl. How could I just throw away life like that? And what makes an opossum worth delaying our Easter meal—worth saving, but not a vole?
Childhood memories came rushing back and I choked up. All the baby critters I rescued and nursed—chipmunks, squirrels, red-breasted grosbeak, robin.
Is one life worth more than another?
Can we just turn off our heartbeats and let another heartbeat stop, suffering as it does?
Maybe it’s just a vole. But I was blessed to have and to hold and to pray over—just a lowly vole. I had relationship—with a vole.
And the time came, next morning, when we found them both still alive. I squeezed breakfast into their tiny mouths and tenderly carried them out to their hole—the vole hole Nick had found that morning. I nudged them back in with a prayer for their well-being. And I left them there. Because, after all, voles belong in their holes, not in our homes.
But that vole—it burrowed its way into my heart on Easter Day and all we wanted to do was save that one lowly life while our feast grew cold on the counter. And two days later, I learned it wasn’t a vole. It was the Easter bunny! My dog tried to eat the Easter bunny!
Should what it was make a difference in how we care? And why should we care? But we do.
And too often we don’t.
We don’t care about those we deem too low, too unworthy of relationship, too much work to care.
So we ignore and throw them out of our hearts, these people, these creatures created by God, just like us.
Sometimes those we ignore and throw out strangers. Sometimes we ignore and throw out friends. Sometimes we ignore and throw out family.
Some of us try and try again to make real connection only to hear continuous silence and refusal to reconcile. And let’s be real. Rejection hurts. Rejection hurts most when it comes from the ones you love and you thought loved enough to do the hard work of nurturing near-death back to life once again.
I just heard from a dear friend who has been rejected by her own. Why? Because she heard and heeded the call of Christ. And when she did? She wasn’t just scourged with the fangs of words. She was crucified with the turning of hearts—the withdrawal of relationship—the refusal to listen—the denial of even a response.
Should we turn from one another so? Should we turn ON one another? Aren’t we ALL family? Often, the most hurtful weapon we use against one another is silence—refusal to engage—refusal to really relate.
Thankfully, we have One in our lives who suffered the silence, the turning away of our Holy God so that WE WOULD NEVER HAVE TO SUFFER AS HE SUFFERED—the worst suffering of all—rejection of God. Jesus was a man despised and rejected by mankind, by womankind. He is God whose torturous scourging and nailing to wood and hanging and suffocating and spear piercing paled in comparison to the REJECTION, the TURNING AWAY, the DISENGAGEMENT from the Father who cannot and could not look upon the Sin-bearer. For God is holy. This wholly, holy rejection—the turning away of the Father—this was the most bitter sip from His crucifixion cup.
In remembrance of Him, let us remember . . .
Silent treatments hurt the worst.
So when we’re hurt or mad or sad? When we don’t know WHAT to say?
Say SOMETHING. Anything.
Say you don’t know what to say but say you love enough to want to save relationship!
Say you’re willing to do the work.
But let’s not pretend we’re family—that we have relationship—when we refuse to engage—when we do NOTHING and pretend that EVERYTHING will be ok with the passage of time. Let’s not stick our heads in dark vole holes of denial. If our hearts are so hard that we don’t care and we think nothing of throwing human “voles” out in the cold to fend for themselves against the fangs of death—let’s just say so. Let’s admit who we are and what we’re doing.
But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking God looks away from such denial and refusal.
More than anything, our God is about relationship. Our God is the God of reconciliation—of dealing with, not denying. He is our God of love AND truth. And if He was willing to send His only Son to suffer and die to save us from our selfish selves—to restore our relationship with the Himself who is Holy—by taking on OUR imperfection—OUR sins—in His own body—if He was willing to suffer the worst suffering—the rejection of His Father—SO WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO—can’t I humble myself like a blind, naked, shivering vole? Can’t I realize that though some may deem me unworthy and nonchalantly toss me aside, forgetting me, my God never will toss me aside, consider me unworthy, forget about me, stop loving me, stop relating with me?
Can’t I realize that even when I try my best to reconcile with others and think my efforts go nowhere, my efforts go somewhere—straight to glory—straight to the One who knows what the ultimate rejection feels like and who will never, ever reject even the lowliest, near-death creature’s genuine desire for relationship with Him?
Oh my God! I am but a vole—a vole who You love, though some may see me as ugly and unworthy of time and attention. Open my still-closed eyes. Strengthen my feeble frame with your manna. Forgive me my sins against others as you forgive my sins against You. Help me humble my ego when I’ve been wrong in YOUR eyes. Give me strength to ask the one I’ve wounded to forgive me as well. But when I’ve stood by You and for You, and when I’ve followed you where you’ve certainly called, and others hurt me with their silence because of Your call, and they refuse to deal with me because they refuse to deal with YOU, then hold that bitter cup to my lips and help me sip that I might know you and love you better—through suffering, and still pray goodness and mercy upon those who so easily disregard, so quickly discard, this life You came to claim as Your own, forever. Help them know their worth in Your eyes.
And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” 1 Samuel 8:7-8
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32