I don't like rats. They scare me. Did you ever see anybody stomp themselves unconscious? I'll bet I can do it. But, rats come to us in a lot of ways. Like their furry counterparts, our emotional rats like the dark. They like to stay hidden. In a society such as ours, you can't help but hear them now and again but they seldom show themselves and that is one of the major problems with rats. You very often don't see them until the ship is sinking. But, that's okay with satan. It's the way he works. He's a master demolitionist. Brick by brick, piece by piece, he'll take us down if we let him.
"Don't worry about it," he says. "Nothing wrong with you boy."
He's feeding my emotional sweet tooth. It's as addictive as any drug and he knows I like it. We like to hear that we're okay. We like to be soothed and he can be as mellow as a moo-cow making a barbiturate milkshake.
"You can handle it," he says. "You're strong. You don't need anybody."
Now he's siphoning off that hidden store of pride I carry around. It's hard to admit that we can't do something on our own. I guess it's the "manly-man" in us but you girls shouldn't snicker. You have it too. It's hard to admit that we don't have what it takes to get us out of that hole. But, not to worry. You can count on the devil not to tell us that.
"You're fine by yourself," he says. "Probably better off." And the rats are mobilizing.
So, we suck it up and keep going. "Good job," he says. "Hey, you don't care what they think anyway. What do they know?" And the rats are beginning to creep.
"So you drink a little too much. It's good for you. And don't let that temper thing bother you. Everybody blows off steam now and then."
Animals, including rats, know when a storm is on the way. They have a special sense for that. It's us intelligent folks who can't tell when an avelanche is about to cover us up.
"Just take off the edge," he says. "That white powder's nothing. Everybody in Hollywood is doing it and they're smart and successful people. It's just a little needle. Can't do any harm just once."
He'll even go after his own if it suits him. When the ACLU, American Atheist Society or any of the multitudes of like organizations spread their message, he finds a way to push my buttons.
"Don't you hate them?" he asks. "Don't you want to get 'em? Come on. I know you do. Don't you think they deserve it?" And the rats begin to scurry.
The water level is rising along with my temper and I can feel that acid churning like a top-fuel Maytag. Won't be long now.
Whether it's the drunk driving down the street, the prostitute walking it or the drug user on the corner, I want to beat them with my self-righteousness. Whether it's the hip-hopper with a ring in his nose and crotch of his pants dragging the ground or that world-loving, anti-God loudmouth on the news every week, I want to squish them with the boot heel of my hypocrisy. I want to look down my nose like a gun sight. Pow! Bury them in slime and make the world a better place.
But, I'm not supposed to do that. It's not because they don't deserve it. It's not them I'm thinking about. You see, each one of those barbs we send has a homing beacon. The arrows may strike their target but then, they'll turn and come home. They always come home. Like the I.R.S. and the mortician, we can't duck them. Those loose-lipped, stinging darts we shoot will keep coming back until the devastation is complete. Unresolved hate is going to take up residence with us whether we like it or not and it can take a long time to die. Sometimes, we die before it does.
But on the other hand, love is strange. Or maybe not so strange. Love will fly a straight line to any place we want it to go and it doesn't matter if it is returned to us or not. We're better for the experience. Like a multi-warhead Pooh-missile, love has the ability to hit many targets. One shot can ricochet a million times. It's a Play-Doh projectile; a fuzzy-bomb; a tribble trap. It's a gummy bear sandwich. It rings with two-year-old laughter. One squeeze on the trigger of love can return to us a thousand times. It's like an old friend returning home. There's a comfort in it. There's a peace.
But hate isn't the same. Hate will slam home like a cannonball then twist and turn through your insides like a cancerous dagger. Like love, hate can last a lifetime. Hate can suck the happiness out of you like a Hoover gone crazy. It will fester and grow. We may keep on firing but in the final analysis, we're shooting ourselves.
In some instances, love is easy but could I love a child molester? Maybe. But what if his target was my child? I don't think I have that much love in me. What if it was my child that was raped and murdered instead of the stranger in the paper? I don't think I have that much love in me. What if someone spit on my child then beat her until her muscles were torn loose and the bones were showing. I can pretty much guarantee that my human side would be on the rampage. My 12-gauge shotgun, E. F. Hutton, would be loaded and talking. The rats would be jumping ship.
As I keep that in mind, it's only proper that I slap myself into remembering. Remembering a Father Who willingly sent His Son to be tortured. He did it on purpose and with purpose. He did it with love. Kind of makes my piddling definitions of love take leave and hide. This was the ultimate. If God hadn't done it, we would be dead in our sins. If He hadn't committed this one incredible act of love, hope would be an illusion for us. Eternity would be a mirage.
I took a long look into memory's mirror and had to admit that if anyone deserves the hate of this Father, it would be me. Long before I was a twinkle in someone's eye, He knew every bad thing I would do. He knew every depraved thought that would ever cross my mind. He heard every dirty joke, curse and hurtful word I'd ever speak. He went with me to every honky-tonk I ever visited and knew about my drunken nights before I did. He watched as I ingored Him the better part of my life. He knew my every action, word or thought before Adam was created but His plan never wavered. I don't know why but then again, I'm thinking with a frail, human brain. God, on the other hand, is God.
So what did this Father do in response to a world full of ugliness? How did He react to this festering sore of rebellion? He could have given up. He could have blown it all off and started over. But what He did do was send his most precious commodity, His Son, to save us.
He watched as the people spit on Him. He saw this Messiah mocked and ridiculed. He sat silently as the Savior of the world was slapped and the hair jerked from His beard. He sat in peace as soldiers beat His Beloved until He was almost unrecognizable as a human. Jesus was torn and bleeding with the shiny whiteness of new bone protruding past the wasted flesh and still they tortured Him. God watched as His most precious possession was crowned with thorns and left to die a torturous death. He saw the nails. He watched the spear go into Christ's side.
With my typical human simpleness, I can imagine how He must have wanted to reach out and wipe away the pain. How He must have wanted to send an army of angels to the rescue.
But, He did what you and I wouldn't' have been able to do. He turned His back and endured the pain of hearing His Son cry for him. He listened as the love of His life begged for Him.
"Father, why have You forsaken Me?"
Through it all, this Jesus the Christ managed to get a couple of things done in spite of the pain. He save a criminal and He saved us. And when it was done, He simply said, "It is finished".
"I did it Dad."
"I know Son. I'm proud of You."