There is a lot more goes on in a suburban backyard than we dare to imagine. During the day a garden can look so serene, calm, tranquil and charming. Flowers and shrubs, trees and lawn can hide a darker side. For many years we had a wonderful Border Collie called Mickey, who patrolled our perimeter fence day and night to ward off any possible rodents. Occasionally one would foolishly enter our suburban block and Mickey would pounce, leaving his trophy catch on our back doorstep. With Mickey’s passing some time back, it was only a matter of time before the rodents would return. Some weeks ago I spotted one in broad daylight, so it was time to head to the produce store to buy a rat trap.
I mentioned my rat trap in a sermon at church a few weeks ago, to illustrate the point that disobedience to God was a little like taking the bait in a rat trap – pleasurable maybe, but somehow with consequences far worse than we could ever imagine. As a preacher you hope a carefully crafted illustration will deliver a seam of spiritual response, with people convicted of the need to repent. Unfortunately I am yet to see that spiritual response, but I have, by accident, become my church’s consultant, advisor and mentor on catching rats. It seems our backyard is not unique. With Sydney’s continued mild and damp summer turning into an even more damp autumn, the rats have enjoyed somewhat of resurgence. I have been encouraging many in our church to face their rats with bravery and resolve.
Most people in Sydney are blissfully unaware of what crawls around their gardens in the middle of the night. I don’t really know either but I do know one thing: there are now 14 less rats active in my yard than when I starting using the trap a few weeks ago.
When it comes to our lives, our hearts and our minds, most of us underestimate the darkness than lurks there as well. We seem to be quite proficient at seeing it in other people. We question their motives, we judge their actions and we condemn their foolishness. Somehow in others sin seems so easily recogised, but our own faults and foolishness seem to blend into the background.
One of the greatest gifts that God promises us is that His Holy Spirit will convict us of our sin. It might not sound like a gift, but the ability to see our own weakness can save us so much pain. We cannot control the strife and pain we experience in life, but when our sin is exposed we have a chance to at least reduce and maybe even heal our abundant self-inflicted wounds.
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:” John 16: 7-8