Meet the spermophilus—you may already know it

I met a spermophilus in our backyard the other day; literally, “seed eater.” A thirteen-striped ground squirrel, also called a thirteen-liner, among other names. The tiny mammal scampered back and forth between a hiding spot beside three ceramic frogs and the seed-strewn area under the birdfeeder. I wandered over as she nibbled.

To my surprise, the attractive little gopher didn’t scoot away. At least not for long. After a dash to shelter among the chives she returned, sat up on her haunches almost at my feet, and began stuffing seeds into her cheek pouches. Every so often she stopped to eat one, holding it with dainty paws and cracking it open to reach the meat inside.

Since she didn’t mind my attention, I sat down on a nearby bench to watch. “Those seeds are not for you, you know,” I said. She merely twitched her tail, fixed her large black eyes on me and kept nibbling.

“Look at her, Rick,” I called to the Preacher, reading nearby. “She’s so cute. I want to keep her.”

“That’s the critter we’ve been trying to catch,” he said. “Or one of them. They’re making holes in everyone’s lawns.”

“Well, let’s give that a rest,” I said. “She’s not hurting anything. Besides, we’re friends now. You don’t kill your friends.” The Preacher groaned.

No doubt our visitor will be trapped, perhaps even in our yard. Just not when I’m around. And if I see our own humane snap trap out of its usual spot, I won’t ask why. “Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies,” I learned from my mother.

I emptied all the feeders into the garbage to discourage the thirteen-liner from visiting, (as well as the wee mouse I’d noticed earlier.) Except for goldfinches and hummingbirds, we won’t be feeding birds again till next winter. I almost feel sorry—I found the new customer equally beautiful and entertaining, even if she and her tribe are considered villains here on the prairie.

Something else eats seeds. Seeds of truth, seeds of uprightness, peace and hope and all things good. Sinful desire looks attractive and acts confident. It sidles up beside us in a moment of weakness, hoping we’ll adopt it. But beware. Like our visitor, sin multiplies. If left unchecked, it will reproduce and consume the very terrain of our soul.

We humans were born fighting a spiritual spermophilus. It’s the contrary thing inside us all that makes us miss the mark of what we know deep inside is right and good. It’s not always something we do—sometimes it’s what we don’t do. What we think or don’t think. Say or don’t say. It’s knowing which direction to go, deliberately going the opposite way, then hating yourself for it.

There’s good news: Jesus has the power to trap that varmint. One word of genuine repentance, and he will evict it and forgive us. The best news is this: with God, souls, like lawns, can be fully restored.

The very one…
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