Self-made terror


At midnight my friends and I heard a screech, a growl, a roar!

Terrified, no one moved or spoke. No one knew exactly what was making all the noise, but it was coming from right outside our tent. In our stupor nothing made sense.

As our minds cleared we remembered that on our hike that day we had encountered two baby raccoons. They were soft, cute, and unafraid. Momma wasn’t there—she was nowhere in sight. Being young and stupid we took them back to camp, fed them, and envisioned them being the camp mascots, thinking them orphans. We built a sturdy cage of two-by-fours and chicken wire, placed it outside our tent, and proudly settled down for the night.

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We realized Mamma had returned. Gnawing sounds now intermingled with the continual warning growls and snarls. Mamma was at war! The racket continued for what seemed like hours. Then silence. No one would brave the dark to see whether the coast was clear. At dawn we pulled the tent flap open. Mamma had left our carefully crafted enclosure a gnarled mess—two-by-fours chewed in half and wire crimped and torn. The two kits were free—Mamma’s power and ferocity displayed. I suspect if any of us had been foolish enough to go outside, she would’ve done the same damage to us.

Our own sin and bad decisions can make us behave just like Momma raccoon. Her terror was real and caused by external factors. Sometimes ours is equally terrifying but is caused by our own foolishness.

John, a dear Christian brother, is such a case. He made several poor financial decisions that have escalated and put him in a severe bind. He ignored biblical warnings given by his advisors not to guarantee his debt personally. He did sloppy homework, forgot he had partners, treated himself better than others, committed blatant conflict-of-interest sins, and now is in what pilots call “a death spiral,” when the spin gets so bad that no matter what is done, the spiral gets worse. John’s wife, children, his house, reputation, and all that he has are threatened.

John behaved just like Momma raccoon. The ferocity of his attacks on friends, advisers, partners, and anyone who got in his way, were devastating. He rationalized his attacks as “good” because “he was protecting his family.” But his terror was self-generated. His sin and shortsighted decisions created the problem. His pride, fear, and isolation kept him from listening to those who loved him and tried to help him. Repentance and calling on the mercy of God are the only solutions left or the “death spiral” would be inevitable. But John’s escalating sin has hardened his heart. He has not yet gotten so low that God has gotten his attention. Unlike Momma raccoon his kits are not free, the cage is not destroyed and the walls are closing in.

Can this happen to you and me? You bet it can.

“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12).

Bill Newton
Bill Newton

Bill is a pastor based in Asheville, N.C. He also serves as a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.


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