I always thought a squirrel was a squirrel. I was uninformed about the variety of squirrel species until I was invited last week to go on what could best be described as a squirrel safari. I packed up my .22 bolt action rifle and joined some friends, each with far more exotic weaponry than my little .22.
We drove to southeastern Oregon where ranchers open up their vast alfalfa fields for shooters to shoot squirrels that burrow into the soil and create colonies. Unknown to me there are professional outfitters who put on such hunts.
The squirrels around our home are cute little guys with long fluffy gray tails that eat nuts and climb in our trees. I wouldn’t want to harm them. The squirrels the farmers want to be eradicated are the equivalent of a dirt rat. Each of these squirrels creates enough damage that a value has been attached to their demise. Each squirrel shot saves a farmer an estimated $8.00 per critter.
When a ground squirrel digs a hole, he tosses up dirt and creates a large mound that kills the surrounding alfalfa, therefore, reducing yield. The mounds damage farm equipment that travels over the mounds and their presence invites badgers who dig even bigger holes that horses and cattle step into and break their legs. 300 ground squirrels can eat as much forage as a single cow. To top it off, these little squirrels will willingly turn into cannibals and eat their recently shot friends. They are nasty little creatures. On the long drive home after a day of launching rounds at ground squirrels from elevated, swiveling chair shooting platforms, I thought of some spiritual parallels.
A lot of us drive down our life-road and look across someone’s field of life and think, “Oh look, a cute little squirrel”, and never realize the damage taking place. We see what appears to be a “lesser” sin, wink at it, and drive by not stopping to ask the person being affected how it is impacting their life.
After 35 years pastoring churches, I saw the damage that can be done when leaders failed to inquire of a wife about a husband’s questionable actions that could have led to the discovery of a deeper issue that was creating abuse and destroying the marriage. Or finding an appropriate way to ask a child if abuse was taking place in the home when indicators of abuse were present while the family seemed to have it all together.
I was ignorant about the damage done by ground squirrels until I was informed and educated. Being informed about the hidden emotional and spiritual damage being done in families, churches, and businesses requires that we not just drive by the painful realities being experienced by others and simply assume everything is OK, furry, and cute. A work of darkness likes to hide its activity under a facade. When it pops up its head long enough to fire off a round of truth, we need to take the shot.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Garris Elkins