Lessons from Squirrel Land.
Picture a collection of old trees, filled with squirrels darting up and down the trunks and back and forth across the branches. They are frenetically active. Two squirrels are chasing one other with a walnut in its mouth. Theft? Covetousness? Fun and games? Squirrels just do what they are wired to do.
This time of year, they gather food for the winter. It’s part of a basic, mundane life: hibernation, reproduction and watching for predators. Activities change according to the season and the immediate need. Seasons come and go, but in general, squirrels don’t change. They don’t allow weather to get in the way. They are mindful to the climate, the geography and adapt to whatever season or threat is presented. Seasons turn to years, decades, centuries and the lowly squirrel continues the lifestyle and lifecycle ordained by God.
Culture and technology don’t interfere with the squirrel life because they have no concept of changing times. They carry on with the mission. (Hold on to that thought.)
Let’s also assume that the squirrel has no concept of being, other than the instincts they have in order to survive as individuals and as a species. They are hard wired to react to the changing seasons and to immediate threats, either from within the species or from a predator. They just carry on.
God wills the squirrel to simply be a squirrel. Do the instinctive thing and survive. End of story. There is no choice in the matter. I don’t believe for a second that a young squirrel makes a conscious decision to BE squirrelly, or to venture out and seek a new kingdom, a purpose beyond gathering nuts. In this sense, squirrels are somewhat robotic.
Humans, of course, are different. (True, many of us simply survive without much existential thinking. But even the most basic of human lifestyle still requires life choices.) Arguably the biggest difference between humans and animal life derives from our creation in God’s image and the ongoing struggle between God, who wants our attention and submission and worship, and the enemy, who comes to lie and divert and get in the way of any effort made by ourselves or God to achieve a divine connection.
As a result, we quite often allow the enemy to have its way. We take the easy way. We seek dominance over nature and fancy ourselves as our own gods. We worship ourselves. We seek to master the universe and control nature rather than accept that some things are not meant to change. We try to change God, which is a pointless and futile exercise, rather than allow God to change and control us.
Like the squirrel, humans have instincts. But because we are created in the image of God, we are invited to rise above them. We have awareness of ourselves as spiritual beings with souls which are lasting.
We think, we philosophize, we seek order and an understanding of purpose. We advance in our knowledge of the universe, the planet, the use of technology and understanding of human nature.
Despite the differences between humans and squirrels, I suggest that we can learn something from our furry friends, whose scurried lives are vibrant reminders of the following facts:
- God has a purpose and plan for us, which must be sought, understood and followed if we are to survive and thrive.
- It’s necessary to take immediate action to protect against predators.
- Stock up for dormant seasons.
- God provides convenient tree trunk hollows and underground spaces to live, sleep and grow – protected from elements and predators.
- There is absolutely nothing we can do to change the seasons or the larger culture of change around us.
It’s that fifth point which is most important. We can do nothing, apparently, to prevent the culture from invading the courts of the church. We can only carry and seek the unchanging will of God and be the true, authentic church. We can anchor ourselves in Christ.
(Of course, on this note, we must constantly be aware of the sin of pride. We must always be humble and admit that we are fallen and there is darkness in each one of us. We are called to exhibit grace and speak what appears clearly to be the truth but to do so with love more than conviction.)
What does all of this mean for us?
Cue the squirrel.
- Refuse to allow any climate or predator to get in the way of what God wants us to do. Point no fingers at each other. Rather, point to Christ — crucified, risen, His Spirit with us. Point to the accuracy and reliability of Scripture.
- Protect against the enemy, whose aim is to steal what faith we have and to kill. Like squirrels who flock together, we offer pastoral care to all those who are weathering this season of change.
- Gather the spiritual fuel we require – via prayer, mutual care, submission and study – to carry out our missions. Keep active and focused on the essential for spiritual survival.
- Create places of safety in the midst of the culture. Since 1983, the Renewal Fellowship has strived to promote and protect orthodoxy, but the spiritual forces which sought change were too strong. The soul of the institution, as a spiritual representation of Christ, went down with a single word during General Assembly: “carried.” Now, we seek to create smaller, more local, places of safety, such as a presbytery or congregation which adheres to scriptural integrity. Stay ’n pray, distance or depart – it doesn’t matter.
- Work according to the season. Pray early and often.
If all of this sounds a lot like what we should be doing anyway, you’re probably right.
Carry on, like the squirrel.
Cultures change, but Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.