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The Pest Control Parable

Last summer we had an ant dilemma.  It began with a few ants parading in around the back door but quickly escalated into ants emerging from every crevice in the kitchen and pantry.  At that point, we determined that our efforts were no match for the foe we were facing so we called in an expert.  A kind and grandfatherly man showed up on our doorstep the next day and he proceeded to patiently and systematically address the inroads the ants had made.  The process began with a few kitchen bait traps and as the ants began to move and shift we resorted to a whole-house approach.  This caught me by surprise and one day I remember sitting at the kitchen table feeling defeated and anxious about what our pest control hero was finding as he dug into every closet nook and filthy bathroom corner of our home, baiting and trapping the ants that were troubling us.  I was relatively certain he was upstairs cursing me under his breath for having to dig through my messes and for my neglect of what must be routine maintenance in most homes.  After sitting in my shame for a few minutes, I remembered 3 things about his last visit. 1) He said that in his 30+ years in the pest control business he’d seen it all and there was very little that would surprise him.  2) In our conversations, he had always been respectful of others, even when describing worst-case scenarios.  3) He was kind.  And even though that didn’t change the state of my medicine cabinet, it did give me pause.  When I remembered who I was dealing with, the scathing judgments I had attributed to him began to melt away.  I realized that we were both committed, regardless of the cost, to achieving the same end result. I found a measure of peace in the knowledge that my cluttered bathroom cabinets may not be the anomaly I thought they were.  And I wondered if, after years of working elbow-deep in grime, you become less shocked by it are thus able to be even more efficient and compassionately focused on the restorative work at hand.

It was brought to my attention that this entry deserves a post script.  As I contemplated the above-referenced experience, I was jarred by the familiarity of those feelings of inadequacy.  Inevitably, when I find myself at odds with heaven I am embarrassed and ashamed at the state of my spirituality.  I am hesitant to approach Deity with the dusty corners of my soul because I anticipate the Savior offering me disappointment or consternation as I detail my shortcomings and ask for His assistance to clear away my failures.  I think it’s an age old, universal aspect of mortality-the immediate inclination to withdraw our imperfect mortal selves when faced with the grandeur of Heaven.  But when I really give it some thought and remember what I know about Jesus Christ, I remember that there is no disobedience or pride that He’s not intimately acquainted with.  He has seen it all and what’s more asks, perhaps even begs, us to bring Him more of whatever “it” is if that means easing our burdens.  He will never, not even for the grossest misdeed, be surprised by anything because His whole life was devoted to understanding us.  My realization at the kitchen table reminded me of the gracefulness of what He’s really offering.  He simply wants me to ask for help, for anything, no matter how big or small and He will immediately and kindly dive in with me and help me to work my way back in whatever ways I have strayed.  I recall his absolute compassion and kindness towards everyone who approaches Him for help, no matter the distance, no matter the deed.   And as soon as I choose to approach Him and let Him help me, I remember, again and again, that it’s simply love and compassion that He issues to the penitent, not guilt and judgment.  The point is that when I’m distanced from Him, even just a little bit, my memory of those characteristics is cloudy and it can be hard for me to feel brave enough to approach Him.  Thus, I continually seek to know Him better so that I don’t mistake what He is offering.

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