~~Sometimes when I walk, my husband walks with me. (See my last article for how that goes. He’s a runner. He has very quick pace. Need I say more?) I walk head down, literally, because I can’t see much without my glasses and I need to concentrate! He walks head up looking around, noticing things. He often gives me the play-by-play about the morning dog party, what bird is singing, what neighbor is traveling, and yard maintenance. One thing we both notice is a squirrel plummet. Maybe you’ve never experienced this. It begins with a frantic scrabbling sound in the trees, followed by a shower of leaves, more desperate clawing sounds, and then a thump as the squirrel plummets from the tree onto the ground.
We always feel so embarrassed for the poor little thing. I mean, it’s a squirrel’s job to climb a tree. When it goes so terribly wrong, you just hate to draw attention to the failure, you know? They always survive. I’ve seen squirrels plummet a very long way to the ground and they always get up, shake their heads a bit, and then go back to work. But it’s awkward.
I’ve often wondered what the precipitating factor is in causing a squirrel plummet. It could be anything from poor execution to over-reaching. What I really think is that they just take their eye off the goal. I mean, they’re squirrels, right? Oh look! There’s a nut! And so the plummet begins. I find this so devastatingly true of people too. Life happens. Distractions hit us right in the middle of a double somersault and suddenly we find ourselves on our backs, sucking wind, looking up at the sky wondering what on earth just happened.
This is where you roll your eyes a bit, because what I have to say here is nothing new, nothing foundation shattering. It’s what you already know: you have to keep your eye on the goal in order to reach it. That means, in your spiritual life, you have to have your nose in The Book. You have to zero in on the branch you’re reaching for, concentrate on the launch, the reach, the grasp, and the landing. You cannot be looking around at all the other nuts you’re missing. You have to pick the limb…and leap!
OK, so you’re not a squirrel. Here is what I mean. I have a lot of “issues”. I struggle with a lot of besetting sins. So many, that I can easily get overwhelmed with the thought of trying to conquer them all as opposed to letting them conquer me, steal my joy, wreck my testimony, dishonor my God, and end my life prematurely. If I choose one, however, and focus on that one, looking at it closely through the magnifying glass of scripture, I can reach my goal. If I get distracted by all the others, or by the much easier and more hedonistically pleasing world around me, I will miss and plummet to the ground in an awkward heap of arms and legs and good intentions. Oh how many times I’ve been there, picking myself up, shaking my head, grateful that everyone is pretending not to have noticed.
I’d like to say that if I hear you scrabbling for purchase in your tree that I will come to your aid, but usually it’s a nearly instantaneous event occurring without warning except for a shower of leaves. It just takes a slight glance to the left and suddenly your mouth is saying things it surely should not be, or your credit card is buying something it surely should not be, or your eyes are looking at something they surely should not be, or your mind is wandering down paths it ought not to take. One momentary loss of focus. And suddenly there is desperate clawing to regain your hold on the branch, the tree, the bark…anything that will save you from the plummet. I might see your desperation a second or two before the fall, but it will be too late for me to save you. You have to keep your eye on the goal. Only you can do it. Only I can do it.
I think, however, that we can encourage each other in the moments of safety. Something sadly lacking in the squirrel kingdom. When things are going well and life is pretty smooth, that is the time to say to each other, “I see you’re doing really well with…” and name it. We should tell one another “Bravo!” “Brava!” “Well done!” “I see your struggle to maintain your balance on that very small branch to reach that very pretty nut! You’re doing so well! Keep it up!” Don’t you think that would help? Wouldn’t you like for someone to notice you doing well, rather than trying to avoid eye-contact after your plummet? I would! So I’m going to determine to do just that. I promise to notice you more for your effort to maintain focus, and for your flawless execution. And maybe instead of walking by whistling after noticing you in a heap of defeat, I’ll stop to help you untangle yourself, pick the twigs out of your hair, and give you a boost back up in the tree where you belong. It’s what we should do for one another, not being actual squirrels and all, and knowing that in turn we’d like for someone to come alongside us who also has sucked wind and won’t make a big deal about ministering to us in our heap of a fall. Besides, it’s never a fatal fall, just a momentary slip that’s cushioned by grace…and a pile of leaves.