Sunday, August 26, 2007

Are you Smarter than a Raccoon?

I love raccoons.
Who has not been amused at their antics or smiled at their masked faces, but have you ever considered that they may be wiser than many of their two legged ‘higher on the intellectual scale‘ human fellow-creatures ?

I once did some work for a lady who had regular raccoon visitors in her back yard.
She laughingly told about watching the mother raccoon try to teach her little kits that the day time was for sleeping. She would line them up on a generous tree limb and settle them down. One kit would invariably decide that he didn’t want to sleep and would try to scamper off. The mother raccoon would grab him, give him a good swat and plunk him back down on the tree limb. Then another one would run off…but again a swift whack would put him in his place and eventually all the kits would settle in for their needed day’s rest!

I remember one day coming home after dark and just as I was slowing down to turn into my driveway, my headlights caught a raccoon family waddling beside the road. The mother was leading the way and obediently following in an orderly single file were her six little kits.

Discipline is an unavoidable part of a young kit’s life but not a one rebels against it and goes wayward. By the time a kit grows up it is a proper, mature raccoon wise in all the ways of its mother. The success rate of baby kits to grow up in the image of their mother is 100%.

One definition given for ‘wise’ is “a way of being or acting”. Given that ‘the way’ would be the highest standard modeled, the raccoon certainly grows up to be wise in how he has learned to act and be.

Do we come close? Hardly. How often man rebels against God’s correction and discipline preferring to go his own way and set his own standard of ‘being and acting’.
Can we who call ourselves God’s children say that truly we have ‘grown up in God’s image’ ?

The raccoon, in many places, has been forced out of his natural environment and has taken up permanent habitat in residential areas.
He has adapted well, without compromising his focus and purpose – finding food and shelter. The raccoon is extremely clever and man is hard pressed to find anything that will stump him.

One man who had a pond in his beautiful garden could not keep the raccoons from nightly eating his gold fish and destroying the water plants. He tried everything, including a new motion censor device that would spray anything moving within three feet. The censor worked fine, spraying the raccoons and startling them. But after a few attempts they recognized that the spray was simply annoying. They just ignored it and went on with their task at hand.

Scientists building traps to test the raccoon’s resourcefulness and wisdom in problem solving have been amazed at just how ‘wise’ the raccoons are. They can undo locks, open gates, out-trick traps, figure out mazes, do what it takes to get what they want – food. They can even squeeze themselves through a hole as small as 3 ½ inches square. Their fat body is just that – fat—so it can be squished through a very small opening. Whatever man can throw into their path, the raccoon will usually figure out a way around it, and probably enjoys the challenge.
He is extremely curious and resourceful.

Another definition given for wise is making due use of knowledge – being able to discern and judge soundly concerning what is true or false…choosing the best ends and the best means for accomplishing them.
According to this definition the raccoon is definitely wise.

What about us?
We have been taken out of our ‘natural environment’ – the Garden of Eden, and have been forced to live in the ‘world’ dominated by the enemy. But are we ‘wise’ like the raccoon and simply carry on with our God-given purpose or do we compromise and give in to the ways of the world? Are we wise to the traps and snares the enemy lays in our path to deceive and hinder us or are we wise like the raccoon and overcome anything the enemy can come up with?
Are we able to discern right and wrong and knowing what is a worthy goal and knowing how to accomplish that goal??

Eating in man’s environment could be dangerous to a raccoon’s health but they are wise in avoiding harmful or unhealthy food. When mother raccoon takes her babies to enjoy a gourmet meal from a garbage can, she eats first. Then the baby kits eagerly smell her mouth so they can ‘see’ what she has eaten and then they too know what is safe in the garbage can to eat and what is not.

Are we ‘wise’ like the raccoon? Do we ‘smell’ God’s word so that we will know what is safe to partake of in the world around us? Do we only eat what comes out of God’s mouth or do we indiscriminately eat whatever comes our way, and then wonder why we are weak and sick??

The raccoon has very sensitive hands.
His fingers have 10,000 times more nerve endings than our hands making it possible for him to ‘see’ as well or better with his hands than his eyes. His favorite food is found under water where his eyes are useless so he needs to be able to ‘see’ with his hands in order to find the crustaceans he loves to eat. He is wise in using what has been given him. When he encounters something new, he will very carefully go over the whole thing with his hands, testing every aspect of the object.

Are we are wise as the raccoon? God has given His children the Holy Spirit who is 10,000 times 10,000 more sensitive than we are and can ‘see’ where our physical eyes cannot. Have we learned to trust His guidance in the invisible spiritual realm to lead us in His will to fulfill His purposes for our well being and spiritual health? Do we 'test' through Him the things we hear and see?

The raccoon is wise in perseverance. He does not give up no matter what.
We once had pet ducks and one by one we were losing them. Every morning we would get up and find the remains of another half eaten duck. We did what we could to keep our ducks in safe places at night but to no avail. Finally we had only one duck left and we put the duck in a large metal cage with a combination lock on the door. We thought surely it would be safe. But no, morning light revealed that the duck was dead and half eaten though still in the cage. We were stumped. What was small enough to get through the tiny wire mesh and yet strong enough to kill a duck?
We set up a trap - the same wire cage the duck had been in and triggered the door with a string attached to food at the far end of the cage. We caught our thief. A large raccoon. And there was no doubt of his guilt. His right fore leg was stripped to the bone of fur and flesh. He had reached through the tiny mesh ignoring the pain in his leg to grasp hold of the duck, kill it and pull back small amounts of meat. We were torn between sadness at what our ducks had suffered at the hands of this determined raccoon and admiration at his perseverance.

Are we so wise as the raccoon that we will fight – to our hurt if necessary- for what we believe in? Or will we simply give up if the going gets too difficult or threatening?

The raccoon has a very small gullet, and is wise enough to know that he must eat slowly --- if he gulps his food he will choke --. So he takes small bites and chews his food well.

Are we as wise as the raccoon? Do we recognize that we must chew the Word of God slowly and take small bites so that it will take root in our spirits? Or do gulp our spiritual food on the run not giving our minds time to become quiet so we can digest what God is saying to us?

The raccoon is also wise in knowing when to do his work. He knows when his ‘enemy’ sleeps and makes good use of that time. Hence he works at night when man is not watching.

Are we wise as the raccoon? Are we aware of where our enemy likes to be and work when he is not looking? Are we wise, knowing where Satan would be most likely to entrap us?
(Lest Satan should get an advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.

II Cor. 2:11)

God has put so many picture examples around us to teach us how to live and sometimes we need to humble ourselves and learn the best lessons from unexpected places, even creatures that we consider beneath us.
For God says….”The foolishness of God is wiser than men….” I Cor. 1:25.

It is in the ability to humble ourselves that we become wise….and I am thankful to the raccoon for the wise lessons he teaches us !!


Lovella said...

You've left so many good thoughts to ponder. I'll reread this one several times, it has a multiude of lessons to think through.

James Janzen said...

I don't think the two raccoons I hit at the same time, one under the front wheel and one under the back wheel, were all that smart. :-) How's that for an inappropriate comment??? :-)

Julie said...

Well, James, I am inclined to think that if the racoons had been driving they would have been wise enough to have missed you!!!

Carolanne said...

Wow, this is an excellent devotion Julie.

By the way, did you take the photo of the racoon?

Sara said...

A well-stated lesson, once again! This one takes time and study...but we come away a little wiser.

ru4real said...

I LOVE the lesson of the raccoon. What fascinating creatures they are! You made some REALLY good points in that post. I think it is so beautiful how God's nature is displayed in the world He created ... a super-sized classroom! He has provided so many insights, so many examples for us. How can we miss Him? Let's be classmates ... diligent students together ... maybe even teacher's pets!