Living in the woods is peaceful most of the time. But occasionally there are some unexpected moments of excitement. Whether it’s being dive bombed by a barred owl, discovering a hive of bees in a tree while mowing, or waking up to a woodpecker trying to come through your wall, it’s an adventure.
On this cold morning, I had let the dogs out and went about getting breakfast ready. Just about the time I was putting the coffee on, I heard furious barking from the backyard.
Now I don’t really speak dog, but I can pick up a word or two sometimes. On this occasion, the dogs were clearly upset that someone had intruded on our property, which usually means the UPS guy. Not today.
As I made it to the door, I opened it to see both my dogs fiercely posturing in front of the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen. Suddenly me, and my two dogs were within 6 feet of a wild animal, who wasn’t shy about approaching the house and the dogs.
For those who don’t know, my dogs are less than intimidating. I have a pug, who is incapable of getting his smooshed up mouth around anything but kibble; and a mixed breed, I affectionately call “the abomination” as he is an unholy mix of small obnoxious but fluffy dogs. These two scream helpless. The sight of my small helpless dogs aggressively barking at a predator who carved out a living by killing and eating what it can catch, was ludicrous and terrifying at the same time. A coyote can bite through bone and is investigating them as a potential meal, and my dumb dogs are “defending” the house.
I ran and grabbed my newly acquired pellet gun and ran out to confront the threat. I began yelling for my dogs to come inside and walking out to them. The coyote, finally took notice of me and retreated to the tree line, and the dogs were so busy barking they couldn’t hear me.
Eventually the dogs heeded my instruction and came inside where it was safe. My wife watching from the window, spotted four other coyotes lurking in the woods. As I made my way up the deck, I could see them retreating across the pasture and the frozen pond. I fired a “warning shot” which was a lot less impressive with a pellet gun.
I like to think that when I came through that door I looked like a navy seal poised for action. In actuality, I was in my pajamas with a pair of crocs and a pellet gun. But to the coyote and my dogs, I was intimidating.
When facing temptation or our own personal giants, how do we respond? Standing in our own might in the face of such things leads to nothing but disaster. If the calamity at hand doesn’t devour us, more awaits in the shadows to finish the job. Resisting temptation must look this way to our Father. We are instructed to flee temptation (2 Tim 2:22) and only resist the devil after we have called on the Lord and draw near to Him (James 4:7-8).
My dogs had all the safety and protection they needed, but in their foolishness, they did not draw near to it. I called after them loudly, telling them to come into the house, where they would be free from harm. Only after the coyote had fled did they heed me, and come to safety.
When working with people struggling with addiction and other issues, the same pattern emerges. Here are 5 things to remember to avoid being devoured.
1. You’ll never be stronger than temptation.
Time and again when I encourage people to completely avoid what is destroying their lives, they tell me, “I just need to be strong”. We never want to feel powerless, and we certainly don’t want to be told that we are powerless. But embracing your “pugness” in the face of sin’s coyote, is better than strength; it’s wisdom.
2. You’re better at lying to yourself than listening to others tell you the truth.
Barking in the face of the coyote serves only to make you oblivious of help. Psyching yourself up, and telling yourself how you can “handle it” deludes you into a self confidence that makes you vulnerable. Turning your ear to the Lord, and trusting others who you know have your best interest at heart, can speak truth to your soul, even when it’s hard to hear.
3. Rationalizing is the hallmark of bondage.
When you find yourself explaining why you are doing what you are doing, it’s a good sign temptation is poised to devour you. When scripture tells us that there are no laws against the fruit of the Spirit, it’s another way of saying: a person who does right never needs to explain their actions.
4. You need a safe shelter to escape temptation
The tendency of someone fleeing sin, is to feel ashamed, and avoid church or believers, when really they should do the exact opposite. Scripture tells us the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are saved.
The safest place for my dogs was in the house. How silly that they took so long to come in where they were protected. If you are fleeing sin, go back to church and plug in.
5. Stay alert.
Temptation is sometimes bold. Walking straight up to you and growling in your face, but more often it lurks in the tree line of your life. When we venture to the edges of our moral sensibilities, temptation can pounce.
“I can have just one”. “I’ll just go for a little while”. “I’ll just watch a little bit”.
These represent the tree line where we foolishly feel we can walk without peril. Maybe we’ve been that far a thousand times before with no negative consequences, but it just takes once. Sin will bite through your bone. Temptation makes meals of the confident believer. Know your boundaries and stay away from the edges. There is freedom in Christ, but freedom is not immunity. Wisdom is knowing your limits without needing to test them.
Finally, if temptation has you by the neck, or you feel it has already devoured you, there is hope. God is good and mighty to save. I’m so thankful he is not a guy in his pajamas with a pellet gun.