My backyard, graced with an old walnut tree at one end of the property, is a veritable playground for squirrels. I love my squirrels, so frisky and playful and funny are they.
And this is the season of hungry squirrels. Of course, if you have spent any time watching squirrels, you will recognize that all seasons are the season of hungry squirrels. No matter how much they are given to eat, they always seem to want more - one's layer of fat can never be too thick nor can there ever be too many nuts stowed away.
I try to look out for my squirrels. I frequently given them tasty treats outside my sliding doors on the concrete slab that passes for a patio. They gobble up everything from stale pretzels to left over peanut butter sandwich to gourmet treats like the fruit and nut mandala I made for them last year. (see below)
Yet, as much as I try to show my love for them, sometimes my squirrels are disobedient. I know. You are probably thinking that they are just wild animals and cannot know the difference between right and wrong. Well, allow me to explain.
On the other end of my property, many mulberries fall every spring from a large old tree on the other side of the chain link fence. The mulberries, of course, attract many birds whom I also love and gaze upon fondly from my kitchen window.
In fact, a couple of years ago, I hung a bird feeder from the tree outside my window so that I could watch them feed and was quite delighted with the result. I had been a bit skeptical of the claim that the feeder was "squirrel proof" but I had talked to my squirrels and they never tampered with it. If I saw them eyeing it, I reminded them where I put their food and they were obedient.
Sometimes the birds themselves would squabble among themselves. That seemed a natural outcome of there being so many of them and just the one feeder for them to share. (see below)
So, this year, when I saw a sale on bird feeders, I thought perhaps I would hang up another. This feeder made no promise of being "squirrel-proof" but I trusted my furry friends. I decided to load this feeder with sunflower seeds, making it more appealing to cardinals and songbirds, to ease the sharing process among my winged friends.
However, before I had even hung the new feeder, something very disturbing happened. I glanced out the window one morning in March and, much to my amazement, this is what I saw:
I wanted so much to believe that it was an accident, an aberration, something that would never happen again. Yet I know how it is with disobedience. It starts with a single act. Perhaps one is simply curious. Perhaps the adversary has whispered false promises that seem just too good to pass up.
Whatever the reason, once the sweet fruit of sin has been tasted, it is hard not to go back for more, despite the guilt and shame that follow.
Thus, my heart was saddened - but not surprised - when the new feeder was hung and I could see the look of disobedience on the faces of my squirrel friends as they plotted and planned how its contents could become theirs.
My first response to these transgressions was to tap loudly on my kitchen window. But, alas, they did not even look up from what they were doing. Next, I charged out the door and talked to them sternly, with words and gestures, reminding them that this food was for birds and that their food was by the door.
My immediate impulse was to withhold food from their usual feeding station, not wanting to reward their disobedience. Yet my heart soon melted. It had been a long and harsh winter. They were hungry. And not all of my squirrels were being disobedient. Some dug up last years nuts and ate contentedly. Others stopped by my door to see what I had left for them. Should I punish all because of the actions of a few?
And so I continued to leave them their treats. I even gave the squirrels their own little pile of bird seed, along with the nuts and fruit, since they seemed so fond of it.
Yet my bushy-tailed friends became even bolder in their disobedience.
I was perplexed. And then something else happened. My bird friends started showing up at the squirrel feeding station!
The birds, however, did not necessarily limit themselves to the bird seed. Some of them even tried out the walnuts and pecked at the grapes!
I wrestled with the question (after I got done laughing): what happens to the disobedient?
Reflecting on my Father in Heaven, I realized this: He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the obedient and the disobedient alike. He gives food and drink to his disobedient children as much as He does to the obedient. He loves them all and wills for them all to return to Him in love.
I too have been disobedient and He has loved me. Who am I to judge these little ones?
And so, following in His Way, I continue to love all of the little creatures of my backyard and share with them of my bounty. Even in their errant ways, I know them to be good and beautiful. For He has made them, each cell of their bodies having been born of His love.
The same is true of you and me. Good and beautiful. Born of His love. Longed for, even in our disobedience...