Goodbye, Mr. Squirrel!

Published 3:28 pm Friday, February 26, 2016

Last Sunday morning started typically as time arrived for Sunday School—that is, until Anna Beth energetically bolted through the door with something urgent on her mind. In a voice somewhere between excited and sad she reported to me that she had found a dead squirrel in the church yard. With my muscles sore from the previous day’s work and my emotions suffering from inadequate sleep, I was trying to wear my best face for everyone, but I suppose compassion was lacking as I told her not to worry about it, but to just leave it there and the dogs would get it. You can be sure that when an eleven year old has her mind set on an accomplishment, she will not be easily dissuaded; in a jiffy Anna Beth had the carcass in a plastic bag and was presenting it for my viewing!

When she said she wanted to take it home with her so she could take care of it, her mother expressed in no uncertain terms a persistent “No!” In order to keep peace, protect a little girl’s heart, and preserve my position as a good pastor and a great papa, I needed a quick solution. I told her we would bury it out back after church.

It is not surprising that soon after the final amen of the morning service was pronounced, Anna Beth, now having recruited Jaleah, was all set for the squirrel burial. Those little ladies did not even want to give me time to greet the people as they exited before we pursued the essential task that I promised them.

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Things seldom go without a glitch for me, and the squirrel burial stayed true to my pattern. With an improvised tool that met ground that was much harder than I anticipated, digging even a shallow hole was a task. Finally, with barely enough depth to do the job, I instructed Anna Beth to lay the little creature to rest so I could cover him. The next thing I knew Jaleah was singing “Amazing Grace” and Anna Beth was giving a silent prayer. After all my years of pastoring, I was now embarking upon unchartered waters in my ministry! To top it off, our annual church business meeting was to take place that very evening! If the word got out that I was now holding funerals for deceased squirrels, would the membership still be pleased to call me their pastor?

To humble myself to such an unusual circumstance for our church girls should probably not be thought too unusual for me. There are other times, however, when it is difficult to stoop down to others to attend to their needs; what seems unimportant to us might be of great importance to them. We are reminded in Romans 12:10 that we are to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (New International Version).

In a world that is self-centered—lacking in devotion to each other and refusing to honor anyone but self–, it becomes too easy for us to take up that selfish way of thinking. Yet if we pause and consider what is important to another, take time to hear their need, and go to the effort to offer them a helping hand or kind word, it can be of greater value than we can imagine. Even if it requires a little time, inconvenience, and perhaps a bit of humility, the fulfillment experienced is beyond measure.

I suppose after everything was said and done, it turned out well for all—with the exception of Mr. Squirrel. And in case you are wondering, the last time I checked I was still listed as the pastor of the church!