Yesterday, my wife called me at work and told me there was an animal of some kind in the chimney.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“There are little pieces of leaves and cotton falling down into the fireplace, and I can hear scratching noises.”
“Close the flue. I’m sure it will go away.”
“I don’t want to get anywhere near it,” she said.
“Just do it. I’m sure it will go away.”
It didn’t, and a subsequent internet search led us to conclude that it was probably a raccoon. Great.
The next day, my wife texted me and said Scratchy the Coon was back. I called her.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. All these leaves and sticks are falling into the fireplace now. I looked online and apparently, you have to play music at dusk to make it go away. I’m going to let you do that when you get home. I don’t want anything to do with it.”
When I got home, I took the portable speaker, sat it in the fireplace, turned it all the way up, and played a rap album by Lecrea (Don’t worry, Mom – he’s a Christian). When the kids went to bed, I turned off the music and told myself that Scratchy was gone. I tried not to think about it, because in the back of my mind, I knew the smart thing was to get professional help; but I didn’t want to because I knew it would cost me.
I mentioned our coon conundrum on Facebook and got more than I bargained for.
My cousin Sherry replied, “We had a whole family of them nesting in our roof. They were urinating and defecating to the point that urine spots came through the ceiling. We had to call in a trapper and a professional service to come in and clean it up due to the safety issues.” Then my friend Lynn commented, “My grandparents had one in their chimney. It exited through the house. … Raccoons can do a lot of damage that could end up costing a lot more than pest control.”
After reading those comments, I realized I couldn’t live in denial about Scratchy the Coon anymore. So today, even if it costs me, I’m calling the pest control people to help. I don’t want to, but that’s better than having my pregnant wife in the emergency room with scratches all over her face and a bad case of rabies.
Too bad most of us don’t make that same calculation when it comes to sin in our lives.
The Raccoon Inside
There was a time in my adult life when I thought we were only supposed to confess our sins to God. I based it on scriptures like, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). But at some point, I ran across a more intimidating verse: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) (emphasis added).
I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of confession being a two-part process that involved telling another human. It was easier for me to vaguely tell others I was – um, you know, “struggling.” It protected me from embarrassment, and more importantly, it protected my image.
But keeping that sort of thing concealed from others is like having a raccoon in the chimney and trying to fix it by closing the flue, playing some music, and hoping it goes away. Maybe it will – this time. Or maybe I’ll end up with a rabid animal unexpectedly eating my face off in the middle of the night.
We were not meant to deal with raccoons or sin on our own, nor were we meant to keep them as pets. Both of them will eventually attack and do far more damage than if we had simply dealt with them the moment they appeared.
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself and ask: What are the raccoons lurking in my soul? What are the pests that I’ve been ignoring, just hoping they’ll go away? Once we identify those, let’s do what’s necessary and call in some friends, tell them what’s going inside, and get the help we need to get free. Sure, there’s a cost in doing so, but the only thing we’re going to lose is our pride.
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