Wow, it was cold. I sat in a tree stand listening and watching for any signs of elk moving through the area. Huddled up, I watched the fog from my breath rise into the clear, fall air. My view of the distant mountains and the smell of the forest around me was medicine to my soul. I love experiencing the vastness of God’s creation. Down deep in the canyon below, maybe a half mile away, I heard faint bugles of an elk. Such a beautiful sound, the call of an elk is. It showed me again how God knit our world together in such an inspirational way.
Pondering truths of God and just soaking in the beauty of the place, my quiet world was interrupted by the intense chatter of a large tree squirrel. His incessant gibberish quickly became a nuisance. I wanted to see a beautiful bull elk near me, not some over-talkative squirrel. Yet, as I watched, I became captivated by the squirrel’s work ethic. In late September, the tree squirrels busily prepare for the eventual winter snow. On this day, I watched as the squirrel sprinted up and down a huge pine tree and tossed cones to the ground. He threw several out, and they plunked off the forest floor. Down he came to collect them. I watched with admiration as he packed the huge cones down into an old rotted out log. This squirrel, like many others, was hard at work and very focused on the task at hand. Then, out of nowhere, I saw the brokenness of our world display itself.
As this hard working squirrel ran back up the tree and began to throw a new batch of cones to the ground, a neighboring squirrel sneaked out from who knows where and began taking the other’s cones. He then bounded off to his nest further down the hill. In a flash, my little hardworking friend came charging down the tree to collect his cones only to find most of them missing. He quickly jumped onto a stump and chattered loudly as if demanding retribution. I began to chuckle to myself. I broke into full laughter when he spotted the thief! Off he went, chasing the culprit through the underbrush. A loud tussle began, and I heard noise that I had no idea squirrels could make. I can only assume they reached an agreement, or the hardworking squirrel simply killed the thief. He returned back to his tree, and the guilty squirrel was never spotted again.
I could not help but smile and think about how even I myself become frustrated with what I determine as injustice. When I am offended or frustrated with others, I want to start delving out justice. But what does the Lord require? He requires mercy. I’m not sure if you’re like me or not, but without the Lord, my response to an offender is not often merciful. In fact, mercy may never even enter my mind. The Lord has recently softened this in my life, and as a heart of mercy grows, grace becomes a more natural outpouring.
Yes, that darn thief of a squirrel deserved justice for stealing the fruit he didn’t pick. Do we not all fit that description? Okay, we’re not squirrels, but we do deserve God’s justice. The Bible says all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. Yet we serve a God that displays incredible mercy to us despite our shortcomings. This week, I challenge you to display mercy first. Be an extension of Christ to someone that needs forgiveness.