Of Mice and Hammers
I heard it before I saw it. A mouse. Trapped in our kitchen sink and trying desperately to claw his way out. It was a tiny thing, but it may as well have been one of the ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size) that Westley and Buttercup battled in the Fire Swamp. My teenaged self stood there, paralyzed with fear, not knowing what to do. Should I try to capture it? And just how would I do THAT? What would I do with it once I did get hold of it? Maybe if I just ignored it, he would find his own way out and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
While standing there trembling in my fear and indecision, my farm-born-and-bred mother walked calmly to the garage, came back with a hammer in her hand, and proceeded to beat the living daylights out of the ROUS. She scooped it up with a paper towel, threw it in the trash, then shot me a look that said, “Oh my, where have I failed in my parenting?”
That picture of my mom flailing away with her hammer, lips pursed in determination without one flicker of fear, has stayed with me through the years. It seemed to symbolize a courage that I sorely lacked, but longed to possess. I later understood that it was through a childhood of picking cotton in the harsh west Texas sun, and struggling with poverty during the depression years, that contributed to my mother’s hardy tenacious spirit. She also had her own mother’s example of endurance in hardship. Grandma had lost a husband and two children in the 1918 flu epidemic, and yet continued to serve her family in the midst of intense heartache and meager provisions.
These two women became role models for my sister and me. Many years later, when a devastating blow shattered my own comfortable existence, and I called my sister from the hospital, nearly hysterical with grief and fear, she lovingly reminded me that, “We come from good stock; you can make it through this.” She helped me remember our steadfast grandmother, and our courageous mother with a hammer in her hand.
My sister’s words also reminded me that I am descended from another “sturdy stock”. God says in Romans chapter 11 that He has grafted me into His tree, and in Psalm 16:6-8 the Psalmist declares that my lineage is great:
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
As children of God, through the work that Christ has accomplished on the cross, we have the wonderful assurance that He has grafted us into His beautiful family tree. It is a tree rooted in strength, and able to provide us with courage to face our greatest fears. Because He is at our right hand, we do not have to be shaken. Our God is near – to counsel and comfort and carry us.
In the movie The Princess Bride, Buttercup stood at the edge of the Fire Swamp, with its Rodents of Unusual Size, and lamented, “We’ll never survive.”
Westley replied, “Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
Not much comfort in that statement! But, as the story goes, they did indeed survive and lived to fight another day. We face our own “fears of unusual size” throughout our lives, and yet plenty of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in this journey have survived. Their stories give us courage to go on and fight another day.
My fearless mother may have used a hammer to take care of one of my greatest fears as a teen, but God our Father has given us a Sword, His Word, to face all our fears … and fight all our battles.
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