These rats were huge. Think Rats of Nhim (my daughter questioned whether this movie was suitable for children), Ratigan (Great Mouse Detective, you must see this classic Disney film!), ROUSes (rodents of unusual size, for all you weird people who have never seen Princess Bride. Seriously, I can’t believe there is anybody who hasn’t seen and loved that movie. Go watch it. Now. I’ll wait for you to come back.) There are probably some serious horror movies with rats that would be more appropriate, but I hate horror movies so I haven’t seen them.Anyway, rats infested the bunkhouse. I have no idea why we call it the bunk house, it has never had bunks of any kind in it, but the previous owner called it that so we do too. For us, it is a convenient place to pile all the crap we don’t have anywhere else to put, and it’s attached to the hen house. For the rats it is convenient to have piles of stuff to run around, hide and make messes in (and destroy), and chicken feed to eat.
The rats clearly had become a problem that could no longer be ignored. I began to understand why my hens weren’t laying. Either the rats were eating the eggs, or they were irritating the hens so they quit laying. And I began to fear for the hens themselves. These were seriously big rats, and there were a lot of them. Time for action.
I started by asking the pest control guy for poison. He has this great rat poison. The rats love it, and when they eat it, it makes them really thirsty so they go out for a drink and never come back. The smell of a rat nest is bad, but the smell of dead rats in a rat nest in the concrete block walls is infinitely worse and definitely something to be avoided. Unfortunately pest control guy was sick or in the hospital or something and it took weeks to get this wonderful elixir of death. In the meantime, I started cleaning out the bunk house. Fortunately teen boys think giant rats are a great adventure, and two of my karate students volunteered to help in hopes of seeing one of the culprits.
Off we went, armed with dust masks and gloves and garbage bags. It was disgusting. The smell was suffocating. The floor was covered in rat droppings and chewed up paper and cardboard and sawdust and straw from bags of bedding for the chickens. We piled boxes of nasty stuff in the yard. We sorted through stuff and rescued stuff and threw away tons of stuff. Lots of it made me really sad to throw away. Things that had sentimental value had been chewed up or pooped and peed on and ruined.
I spent the next few weeks sorting the stuff in the yard - cleaning some of it, and leaving some of it in the sun and rain to get the horrible rat smell out of it. When the poison finally arrived it disappeared almost immediately, and I quit seeing whole herds of rats. Yay. I would still see the occasional rat scuttle out of the hen house, along the top of the wall, and scaling the wall sideways in the place where there was nowhere on top to run. They were rather amazing actually. One night I turned around and there was a rat sitting just a few feet away and staring at me. By then I was past screaming and just stared back at him. Finally there was nothing but a few random dead rats which I disposed of. Hallelujah! I immediately had eggs again.
This sordid tale started a few months ago. But the mess in the yard is still there. The mess in the bunk house is still there. There was no point in really cleaning it until the rats were dead, and of course I have found other things to do since the day the last rat died. Today I started working out there again. I threw away more stuff, cleaned more stuff. Moved more stuff. It’s going to take at least a few more days of hard work to get that place merely not disgusting.And that brings me to the point of this whole story.
As I cleaned things today and thought about rats, I also thought about sin. I thought about how sin infests my life sometimes. It builds a nest in the wall of my heart, it eats my energy, it destroys valuable things and leaves a really disgusting mess. But for some reason it is so much easier to ignore the sin than to kill it; until it pours out in an ugly way that refuses to be ignored. I try to clean up a bit, but the sin is still there, creating more mess. Finally I ask God to kill the sin. I confess it and repent and God begins to root it out. But you know what, there is still all that mess that the sin leaves behind. The consequences. The destroyed mementoes, the valuables that have been trashed and have to be thrown away. The friends I have hurt and the time I have wasted and the bad habits and ways of thinking I have acquired. So I work and I clean but I never quite get the smell of sin off my hands. I am told that rats and mice can smell an old rat nest miles away, for many years. Yeah, sin is like that too. Even when it’s confessed and cleaned up and appears to be gone, when you least expect it, it moves right back in.So what is the answer to this infestation of sin?
1. Well, it strikes me as obvious that it would have been easier to get rid of the first rat by itself before it brought its friends and had babies and destroyed my stuff. Likewise, if I am diligent in my own life to confess and repent of sin while it is small, then that would prevent a lot of damage down the road.
2. If I had kept the clutter manageable the rats would not have had a place to hide. Is my day so full and cluttered that I don’t have time to reflect on life and evaluate and see my sin?
3. I must keep putting out poison, because new rats are going to smell that old nest. How do I poison sin? I feed the new creation inside me on God’s Word.
4. I need help. I needed poison from the pest guy. I needed the boys’ help moving stuff and shoveling crap. I needed the garbage men and my husband to take away the trash. I need my church family and my believing friends to help me and support me, teach me and pray with me.
5. Most of all, I need God Himself. I need to spend time with Him. I need to remember that I cannot attain righteousness, He declares me righteous for the sake of Christ. He fills me with the Holy Spirit. As I spend time with Him, He poisons the old man, He removes the old rat nest that is lurking inside me, He washes out the sin so that I am clean, He salvages my heart.Romans 5-6
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Rebecca A Givens, 05/27/14