Monday, May 17, 2010

Bees in Your Bonnet, Squirrels in Your SUV, and Foxes in Your Vineyard

Dah-dunt… Dah-dunt... Dah-dunt-dah-dunt-dah-dunt.

Do you hear it? It starts out slow and builds in a frenzied crescendo. The theme music from Jaws. There are not many things that can set your heart to fluttering and your blood to pumping like the sight of an enormous shark attacking. In my book, it ranks right up there with black mambos hiding in the eaves of an African hut and the over-grown sewer rat that comes up through the toilet in the middle of the night. (You’ve heard those stories, too, right?) But did you know that bees kill more people each year than sharks?

Our neighbors recently bought their first brand-new vehicle. Up until this point, they've always leased, replacing their car every few years. But now, this is their baby. They were especially careful with it, wanting it to last for years to come. Shortly after they brought their SUV home from the dealership, the entire wiring system shut down. They took it in and it needed repaired. A few weeks, later, the same thing. After a few more weeks and a third complete re-wiring, they discovered the problem. No, the difficulty didn’t rest in the hand of Asian business executives. No terror plot had been launched against them. No street gang had targeted them. They discovered that an unruly posse of squirrels had helped themselves (over and over) to a mid-day snack on their wiring system.

That’s a lesson my kids have taught me. We often ignore the “small” dangers in life, while we run screaming for the “large” ones, when in reality, it is usually the small, unchecked threats that pose a far more dangerous risk to our well-being and theirs too. Our kids fear the boogey-man under that bed, but will tell a stranger on the phone that they are home alone. They fear walking in to the first day of school, but run heedlessly across a crowded parking lot. They refuse to go into the dark basement at night, but wander off aimlessly in the middle of a busy fair.

As parents, we do it too. We drill into our kids’ heads, “Don’t talk to strangers”, yet we leave them at day-care centers, gym childcare facilities, and church nurseries without so much as a thought to who might be taking care of them. We remind them to wash their hands and to not touch anything in public restrooms, but ignore the sassy talk that infects their attitudes. We tell them if a stranger tries to steal them away to kick, bite, and fight, but we allow them to nit-pick their siblings and bite at the self-worth of kids at school and church who are “different”.

We do it in other relationships too. Countless times we focus on the big, flashy, calendar-making parts of a friendship, marriage, or business relationship, all the while, ignoring those day-to-day interactions that make up the whole. In the book of Song of Solomon, the couple reminds us to care for those little things that can sneak by and damage what we've worked so hard to accomplish. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom". The lover reminds the beloved to put a stop to those “little foxes” before they ruin the relationship they’ve cultivated. Little foxes are cute, but when they are left to run in the vineyard, they chew the tender blossoms, ruining the fruit—the benefits—of the carefully planted and tended vines.

I want to be aware in my parenting, my marriage, my friendships, my work relationships to not allow those “little foxes” (or the bees, or the squirrels) to ruin and destroy what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Days, months, and years of nipping “foxes” cause children who turn away, spouses who turn to another, friends who turn you off, and employers/associates who turn you down. Don’t make the mistake of spending so much time focused on the big “what ifs”, that you miss the damage being done by the little, seemingly insignificant, things in your reality.

I know I don't always miss those things, and sometimes I do a great job of being consistent and intentional in my dealings with other people. And I know you do, too. But stress, fatigue, depression, and busy-ness are all reasons why sometimes we slack on the things that are important. Be aware today of the real dangers lurking, waiting to steal away the people and relationships that mean the most to you.

When are you most likely to let things slide? What can you do today to keep those "little foxes" out of your vineyard?

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