This weekend, I had an opportunity to spend the day in Eugene. The town is a 2.5-hour escape over the mountains offering a significant change in the seasons.
In Eugene, spring has sprung. And being the gardening enthusiast that I am, the trip provided an early indulgence – a short reprieve from the snow and the cold.
On this occasion, I spent time roaming through greenhouses, walking miles of river trails, and meandering through community gardens.
There were signs of new life all around – seedlings peeking through the warm soil, spring bulbs flaunting their bouquets, and trees carpeted in blossoms. Each encounter shouted, “It’s time to start planting!”
While walking through one of the gardens, I slowed my pace and settled on a moss-covered wooden bench under the canopy of apple trees. I watched the birds bounce between the ground, raised garden beds, and tree branches until I heard this unique cracking sound.
At first, it sounded like pruning shears cutting through bark but then I saw him, a chubby brown squirrel. He jumped from branch to branch, leaving behind a trail of apple blossom petals. He nestled into a cluster of blooms, picked each off the branch, chomped the base of the bud, and tossed the petals. He moved from one limb to the next until he completely decimated a section of the tree. The petals floated like pink and white confetti to the ground.
I watched for a while, and as I watched him, he watched me – a paw full of flowers, he’d look at me, bite off the buds, look at me, make a funny squirrel squeal, drop the petals on the ground, and repeat.
I was curious why squirrels eat the buds but toss the petals. So, I asked an expert – the all-knowing Google and found an interesting response, well actually several but only one was helpful. Evidently, in spring the tree’s sugar accumulates in the buds. The squirrels are drawn to the smell of the sugar, devour the buds, and often damage the branches in their frenzied activity.
Interesting hypothesis, but it could be that this squirrel was just ornery.
I continued to watch for a few more minutes and then headed to my car. I walked through the raining confetti and climbed the brick steps used to bridge the garden with the parking lot. As I reached the car and slid behind the steering wheel, I took one final glance at that little brown squirrel. He flicked his tail, squealed as only a squirrel can, and took a bite off the end of another bud.
The rest of my day was spent in garden store bliss until it was time to grab a light dinner and drive the 2+ hours home.
Over the next few days, I thought about that little squirrel. His actions are the result of his DNA, instincts that help him survive. He’s not concerned about the devastation he causes – apple trees that for a season can’t bear fruit, branches broken from his careless actions. He is driven by the power of his desires, overpowered by his nature.
His behavior is an interesting reflection of our lives.
We are a people driven by our instincts, often oblivious to the havoc we wreak on others, consumed by the desire for power, obsessed by our wants, and frequently overpowered by sin. Yet, unlike the squirrel, we have a path available that leads away from our human natures.
Recently I had an interaction with my husband. I wanted him to see my point of view and agree with my perspective, put another way, I wanted to win the discussion. However, when he held firm to his beliefs, I retreated. Actually, it was more than a mere retreat, I ran back to a childhood that told me disagreement was a “gentle” rejection. Then I took that rejection and meandered through the garden of pride to pick up a little, “I don’t deserve to be treated this way.” And once I landed in the present, the Author of Lies whispered, “You don’t need to put up with this.”
The result of the exchange was broken branches, wounded feelings, and shame rained down like black confetti. There was a chasm where once a bridge joined our hearts.
Yet unlike that squirrel, controlled by his genetics, God offered me a different path, a trail that led to the foot of the cross. And while I stood defiant at its base, I recognized my actions were my head’s defense against my heart’s insecurities. It wasn’t about the righteousness of my perspective or the integrity of my reason, it was about my need to control, to wield my power.
As my husband and I discussed the sequence of events, we began to recognize the behavior, biting the buds, tossing the petals – protecting pride and discarding grace. A squirrel in human form.
I wonder if you have ever been at the crossroads of fighting against your human nature and allowing God’s nature to take root? I think it is a place we will find ourselves revisiting throughout our lives. Thankfully, God offers a solution, found in the book of Psalms.
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. They are like trees along a riverbank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper.
The next time you start feeling that tug towards pride or a push towards self-righteousness, try to remember the lesson that little brown squirrel taught me, following our natural desires leads to destruction – biting the buds and tossing the petals.
You are God’s daughter, and He will give you the strength to overcome your instinctual and learned behaviors, and those unchecked emotions that do not align with His will for your life. He will be with you during all the broken branch moments in your life. You can trust and rest in Him.
You, daughter, are His BeLOVED.