Most people have dogs or cats as pets. I had a groundhog named Snapper. This was cool when I was nine-years-old, for about six months.
Snapper soon took over my room and stood guard in the doorway and snapped his teeth at me. He stood on his back legs, in that special groundhog stance and challenged me to pass.
Soon, my belongings started to disappear. A notebook. A Barbie. Socks. The items remained missing and no amount of searching produced them. My mother didn’t believe me when I accused Snapper of thievery.
“But Mom! I’m telling you, that groundhog took my stuff. And he won’t let me in my room, either.” I sulked and stomped off in a pout.
Time passed and Snapper grew into an adult with bigger teeth and a worse attitude. I became quite nimble at leaping over his body as it stood in my doorway. Snapper became disgusted at my ability to outwit him, and more things disappeared, and he chattered at me louder and fiercer.
As hard as I tried, I never did decipher what he said, though I secretly hoped to become a ‘groundhog whisperer’ and be able to speak to the cranky rodent.
Of course, being nine years old, going on ten, many things in life were a mystery and my excursions to solve those mysteries sometimes ended in disaster. And being the proud owner of a pet groundhog, I was determined to solve the mystery of how a groundhog could predict the weather by seeing his shadow on February 2.
Groundhog Day. The day grew close and I looked forward to it with nearly as much anticipation as Christmas. After all, I had a groundhog and everyone would admire my pet and me as he did whatever trick he needed to do to decide how long winter would continue.
I set my alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. on February 2. Snapper snapped his disapproval of the clanging alarm, but he came out of his closet. This was good, because if I had to go after him, chances were I would be bit.
I wrapped Snapper in a blanket to keep him warm, and we went outside to wait for the sun to come up. From what I had learned from my elders, it was at that early hour that a groundhog would predict the weather.
So, I thought, would he talk? What would he do if he saw his shadow? What would he do if he didn’t? What would I do?
The sun came up, covered by gray clouds and accompanied by a fine mist of rain.
I pulled the blanket back from Snapper’s head so he could see and patiently waited for the wise animal to make his announcement.
He was asleep.
I prodded him a bit. He squeaked, squirmed, looked around and immediately burrowed back into the warmth of the blanket.
Snapper snored, and I grew disgusted. And wet.
Fed up with the whole Groundhog Day hoopla, which had proved to my ten-year-old mind that one needed either (a) better animal communication skills or (b) a better groundhog, I surrendered to Mother Nature and went back inside.
My parents had a good laugh at my expense, though they tempered it with sympathy for my innocence at life’s mysteries. They kindly explained that Snapper could not have seen his shadow because the sun was covered by clouds, and the sun has to be out for anyone to see his or her shadow, even a groundhog.
It wasn’t much comfort to hear such a simple explanation at a tender age, because I wished whole-heartedly for a mystic communication with the animal still snuggled in my arms. Plus, I thought Snapper and me were going to be celebrities.
Snapper moved out in April and took up residence under the barn. To celebrate the reclaiming of my room, I moved furniture and cleaned, and guess what I found? All the missing belongings that Snapper had drug under the chest where he made his nest. I felt vindicated in a small way. The things had been there all along, just hidden in the shadows.
The lessons I learned from Snapper didn’t sink in until I was much older. In order to see, there must be light . . . especially shadows.
The Light of Jesus is necessary to reveal all things – what lies in our shadow, whether a hidden lie or unspoken truth, and the season of our life. If we shine the Light of Jesus on our lives, our shadows will expose if we are living in a wintry state of coldness and death, or a summery state of warmth and growth.
A wide grin covers my face as I recall my groundhog days. Lessons learned and the Son’s ways.
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