It’s late at night.
I’m walking to the car to go to work for an overnight shift and I spy him: A big, fat, hoppy, brown toad trying to “run” from me as fast as a toad can. He hid under our reel mower, thinking I couldn’t see him. I just laughed and continued on my way.
The next morning I came home from work and my older (young adult) son tells me “I have a new pet!” I knew he meant the toad because when I returned the reel mower had been moved several inches. “Where is it?” I asked. “Don’t worry mom, he’s still outside”. I didn’t give it another thought as I went to bed — because working all through the night is exhausting.
After I woke up and gathered my thoughts I decided to go see how my garden is doing (my daily ritual). Out the door I went and over the patio towards the back yard. On my traipse through the patio an active bit of motion caught me from the corner of my eye: Upon investigation I discovered a fat, hoppy, brown toad trying to free his way out of the shallow pool of water at the bottom of the short blue bin on the patio. The bin walls were just a little too tall for him.
Oh dear, that’s MY toad!
I gently caught the little guy, holding him around his “waist”, upright, and away from my body (because I learned a long time ago that these critters will “pee” on you if you don’t!).
My mission was to put him in my garden where he had shelter. And shade. And a nearby water source. And protective places to hide.
In other words, the garden had everything a toad needed to be happy.
I truly didn’t expect that he’d stay there for the remainder of the season, but I still knew it was a much better place for him than that little blue bin. If he chose to leave the garden, that was beyond my control.
In spite of my good intentions he was having none of that human-hand-holding thing as I carried him the fifty-or-so feet it took to get to the garden.
He vigorously wiggled and squirmed;I gripped him tighter (though gently).
He croaked at me, and I tried to speak to him gently.
He simply didn’t understand that I was taking him from a futile, and possibly dangerous situation, and putting him in a safer, more comfortable, and better place.
I put him under the shelter of the large, shady, zucchini plants and went about tending to my garden. I kept my distance from him, though I also kept my eye on him. He continually turned to watch me in between the times that he wasn’t distracted with the yummy bugs that kept coming in his reach. He was happy, sheltered, and being fed. After I was finished with the garden, I simply left and let him do as he wished.
The next day, as I expected, he was gone. Out of curiosity I did a thorough search for the toad; he was really really gone. Although I knew that would happen, I was a bit disappointed: I put him in a toad’s paradise! Plenty of shelter, shade, food, water, and dirt! WHY didn’t he stay?…..
And that’s when God brought it home to me:
“People are very much the same. I see them in a terrible situation, and I bring them out of it. They vigorously fight me, and I try to speak to them to calm them, but they’re so caught up in their immediate fear and discomfort that they don’t understand me or realize when I’ve placed them in a better situation. And once they get there, many times, instead of seeing what they have, they focus on where they could be, forgetting about where they were and how much improvement I gave them”.
And I said:
“But how can that toad not realize the difference between the bin and the garden? The bin was obviously futile, and he would have eventually drowned! Why, after all that hardship, did he leave the garden??!!”
And it came to me; was it from God, or did He let me figure it out myself? I don’t know, but here it is:
The Toad was in the garden, and he was doing better there than when he was in that horrible bin. BUT…. after he was in the garden, and after he got used to it, he saw more:
The outside of the garden.
In his limited mind, he thought that surely the outside of the garden has more bugs, more shelter, more water, and more comfort.
He was focused on what more he could have to enjoy, he didn’t think about the serious dangers that were out there: The neighborhood cats that prowl the night, the coyotes that live in the area, the slithering grass snakes stalking at all hours. He simply couldn’t see those things from his vantage point even though I knew all about those dangers. And I couldn’t protect him from those things because he didn’t see what I saw.
He didn’t understand all the vast things that I understand.
He didn’t understand that I knew dangers that he didn’t.
He only saw what he wanted, and what he thought was better.
And because of that, he left the “safety zone” and ventured out into dangerous territory
And I did not have the authority to control his free will, and so I lost him.
Are human relationships with God so much different than that?