Every time we’ve stepped out the front door the past few days, a small rabbit was hunkered a few feet down, trapped. Earlier in the week, one of the kids saw the rabbit dart into a small hole under the concrete front porch. It would have made an excellent home, but my husband filled in the hole with dirt and packed it tightly. The rabbit’s only hope rested solely in digging itself out.
I wasn’t happy when I heard. I have a soft spot for rabbits. My first non-fish pet was a rabbit I won at work when I was a senior in high school. I worked at Target and they were giving away a rabbit as a prize in a trivia contest at the store’s Christmas party. As an adult, it occurred to me a co-worker must have wanted to unload the rabbit and believed the Christmas party was just the ticket. There is no way they obtained a rabbit to be a prize when they had an entire store of items to choose from. That’s why God invented Requisition Forms.
My parents were very surprised when I showed up at home with a new friend. Thankfully, they let me keep her. She was a lot of fun to watch loping around our house that winter, living the good life of central heat and champagne grapes. She died the following summer after getting into my mom’s garden strawberries, which were covered in white powdered pesticide. I was angry and haven’t eaten my mother’s strawberries since. She doesn’t know that’s the reason. It’s my only grudge and it’s completely unreasonable.
Bunnies have my heart. I pouted and protested when my husband explained why he covered the hole. “They’re rodents. They cause damage.” When I said it was just one little rabbit, he retorted that there never is just one rabbit. They have a reputation for being very family-oriented. I had arguments of my own, based solely on iffy speculation: What if the rabbit was an adolescent, born during the summer but out on its own without the companionship of others? What if our porch was the only hope of survival?
Wasn’t it an honor for a rabbit to choose our porch above all porches?
I knew my arguments were childish, but I was struck by the sadness of the little bunny’s end. It was cut off from food and water, unless instinct kicked into those sweet paddy paws I pictured. Dig dig dig, I telegraphed through the soles of my shoes as I stepped outside. I wasn’t going to un-do my husband’s digging because he was rational and right. Wild rabbits destroy gardens and chew wiring in cars because of soy-based wire wrapping. They carry diseases like Tularemia. The only difference between rabbits and rats is that rabbits are adorable and rats are loathesome. If a rat ran under our porch, dirt wouldn’t have been enough to cover the hole. I would have poured flaming concrete spiked with landmines and sauerkraut into the hole and put our house on the market.
About the same time my son saw the rabbit, a cold snap hit. It’s been brutally frigid with record-breaking low temperatures. The rabbit might not have survived anyway, even if it wasn’t sealed inside. These are brittle times to be helpless outside. When we said our morning prayers this week before school, we prayed for those who had no homes or had to work outside. May they find shelter and warmth, we asked, knowing how even little birds and big whales are provided for:
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26 NKJV
This is such a hard verse despite its beautiful imagery. The tenderness of the mother bird feeding her young with bugs, seeds, and fish is played out world-wide in billions of trees and barren arctic tundras and God knows each beak. Yet we hear of homeless people and elderly folk freezing to death, hungry. The two often go together. If you can’t afford food, shelter is often out of reach. If you don’t have shelter, you don’t have a place to eat, prepare, or store food in safety and comfort. Bites are snatched here and there with nothing for long-term sustenance.
Where is God when His people are sealed-in? Where is He when they are sealed-out? He sends helpers and hands to seek the cold and forgotten, but is that everyone? Who is missing from His big, long table, until its too late? I thought of the little rabbit under the old doormat, under our feet. I’d sneak peeks where the hole was, on the east side in the dirt beside the scraggly juniper bush, hoping to see signs the rabbit knew what to do.
It did. Today, I saw a new hole where there wasn’t a hole yesterday. I didn’t see the wiggly nose when it caught the cold air but I hope it caught the scent of something good carried in a gust of wind. There are seeds in the pinecones squirrels knocked down from the pine tree above. The top of a dead flower is pinned down by a snowdrift. Eat.
God’s people need to be that good gust, carrying the scent of something irresistible. We need to be surrendered to the direction of how He wends us up and around and through scraggles to be His feeding, helping, serving hands. But do I, beyond prayers with my children before they go to school full of buttered waffles toasted in a warm house? Not really. Not in awhile.
What will I do with this challenge?