Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
2 Corinthians 13:5
This week my life flashed before my eyes (well, that may be a little bit dramatic… it was scary, though.)
The fear was not from a major ministry event, a cultural issue, or something relational. It was because of rats. You see, I’m not a huge fan of the rodents. Quite the opposite. They scare me (a lot).
When my husband and I returned from our furlough several months ago, we found rats living in our house. They were in our storage room, in bins, chewing up stuff, making a pretty comfortable home for themselves. They must have called all their friends to brag about their living space, because there were a bunch of them - it was like the posh rat community in here.
We cleaned them out, set up traps, and got rid of every comfortable place that we could think of, so we thought they were gone. When we found evidence (things chewed in the night) that there was still something around, we bought new mesh to cover the windows with screens, because the others we have had holes in them. We thought that would fix the problem.
But guess what? They were still there lurking! We got rid of their home, so they found another!
They moved to the back part of our stove! (Yuck!!)
We were blissfully unaware that we were dwelling with rats - but ignorance really isn’t bliss. It can be dangerous. I knew someone here who had rats living in his home several years ago and he actually got The Plague! (Yes, it still exists!) He had to be sent down to the city for intensive treatment. Thank God he was okay; but it could have killed him. Ignorance is not bliss!
So this week, our stove wasn’t working right. My husband Robb opened it up to see what the problem was. When he opened it, a big rat ran right toward me. I felt it on my ankle like it was going to run up my leg. I leapt into the air, jumping around, and landed in my friend Florence’s arms. The rat ran in the other direction. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest! That day, my husband killed four rats in total. They were there all the time, right under our noses (right next to our food!) and we had no clue.
How often does this happen in our lives, spiritually speaking?
It’s not always easy to know the corners of our hearts that have fallen prey to pests and darkness. When we come to God, we think He shows us every dirty rat in our lives at once, but then we realize it’s a process. There are many more there than we could have imagined. There are hidden chambers, darkened places, dusty caverns of our hearts and souls that we’ve not yet allowed the Lord to open up and clean out.
Many times we can’t know the depths of wickedness lurking in the corners of our own hearts and minds. We need to let God search our hearts! And how many times do we choose to ignore it? It is just as dangerous to ignore the spiritual rodents in our lives (actually, more so).
So here are a few insights from someone who has lived with rats for several months (and various other times throughout my life here in Northern Uganda):
- Rats like the darkness and dirt: when we found their homes, they were covered in scraps and pieces of garbage. They were hiding in the dark so that they could continue their existence without being disturbed. Sin is the same. We need God to turn on the light! Let His Word expose every wickedness, and allow Him to bring them out and destroy them.
- You can’t know how many are there until you start cleaning things up (you may see one where there are actually ten hiding). We would occasionally see one rat running in the night, but we never saw more at once. When we saw one, it usually meant there was at least one family living in the house. The sins in our lives that are obvious are just the surface of bigger heart issues going on underneath, invisible to the naked eye. We must not just kill the obvious things but allow the Lord to get to the roots and hidden spaces.
- We must be diligent and pro-active to get rid of them. We set traps, put down poison, cleaned out places, and covered holes. It seemed like the little scoundrels would never leave. It took a lot of effort to get rid of all of them. We had to persevere. We also must persevere in our fight with the darkness in our lives. We can’t just pray and hope for the best. We must pray, but we must also take steps to repent, expose, be accountable, seek godly counsel, and fill ourselves with the light and love of Christ.
- We must always remember the danger that they pose in our lives, and not just accept that they’re around. There came a point where I almost decided that we should just stop trying, because the rats weren’t leaving. But then I came to my senses as I thought about how dangerous they are. The little things are disgusting, and furthermore they could kill me. It’s not an innocent problem, it’s an urgent issue that requires alertness. The sins and issues that we sometimes think are innocent can likewise destroy us and everything around us. We need to realize how serious these issues are, and not accept them. The longer we ignore them, the bigger the danger becomes.
So let’s acknowledge - We all have some things that need to be cleaned up. None of us has arrived.
Allow God to search you and show you those things that you are blissfully ignorant about and shouldn’t be. Have the courage to let Him turn on the light in any area of darkness!
Examine yourself, and clean out the rats!