We live on just over two acres of land--not in the country. Right in the city. That’s what makes the property so unique and special. It is filled with trees, a man-made waterfall courtesy of the previous owner, and a creek that comes alive when it rains.
I trim the trees, plant a few flowers, prune the shrubs, keep the weeds out of the flower beds, and I’ll confess: I don’t mow the grass. There’s no room for the equipment it would take or a place to put all the grass clippings. But I know the grass very well. I make sure the sprinkler heads are properly watering every inch of the fescue, which is green all year and thrives in shade. We have a lot of shade due to the many trees.
I keep a bag of fescue seed handy to patch a spot where the seed or the water failed to meet. A local sod farm, which is owned by a friend in the church, supplies me with the occasional bag of seed. When needed, he brings his equipment with him that blesses the entire property with brand new seed. He and I often joke that he provides the greatest antidepressant: green grass.
He has no idea how much it means to me to look out our windows and see green grass all year. Kim and I enjoy looking out our windows or sitting on the patio and seeing all the green.
But, when the sun goes down, the two-acre green, tree-filled paradise becomes an enchanted forest right here in the middle of the city. Right off a busy highway. After dark, we’ve experienced what our friends on farms in the country often experience: wildlife.
Because of the creek, all types of unwanted animals find their way to our property. One night, Kim took our two small dogs outside before we all called it a night. She was keeping an eye on them, as we do each time they go out, when a coyote darted out of the beautiful green shrubs and grabbed one of the dogs. It was a very difficult evening. Our sweet Shih Tzu was very old, blind, and had no chance of defending herself. We know she was gone before the coyote got to the end of the driveway.
From that moment on, we never go outside at night without a flashlight--a mega flashlight. I bought one of those heavy duty flashlights used by soldiers in far away places. I assure you, it is brighter than the hi-beams on my SUV.
Every now and then, when I take our dog outside, I hear danger in the dark. So far, no coyotes. But in the rustling leaves of darkness, I’ve chased off squirrels, possums, raccoons, and skunks.
While I consider myself a brave man, there have been plenty of nights when I hear the rustling leaves and feel as if I’m having a heart attack. I think of the kind of fence that might keep these awful enemies of darkness away. I stand awkwardly close to our dog who just needs to go potty. Keeping my conceal carry license in my wallet, I consider carrying my pistol with me when we venture into the dangerous darkness; however, even firing a pistol in this part of the city would put me on the front page of our local newspaper.
In the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, the wall builders face significant opposition to their efforts. There were people who did not want the wall rebuilt around Jerusalem. Nehemiah and the wall builders had been working hard and the result was extreme fatigue among the people. They had heard that enemies of the project would “swoop down on them” when they least expected it.
Mixing fear with fatigue is lethal. When you’re tired and afraid, logic, perspective, and clear thinking do not come easily.
But the greatest threat was the enemy, the one who claimed they would stop the work on the wall. The wall builders feared an enemy they could not see. They did not know how many people were on the enemy side of things. They did not know when they might show up. And they didn’t know what they would do when they did show up.
There have been times in my life when an unseen enemy pursued me. Sometimes, it caught me. Sometimes, I opened the door and asked it to stay for awhile. There were times I silenced the much-needed alarm and turned off the flashlight when I heard the sound of rustling leaves in the darkness.
This hidden enemy is something we know well, but hope and pray no one else finds out about it. This hidden enemy shows up with one agenda: to destroy us.
Nehemiah gave direction to the frightened wall builders: he had half of the wall builders work on the wall. To help the wall builders resist the unseen enemy, he asked the other half of the workers to guard the workers. And he made sure they had spears and shields and swords.
How amazing would it be to walk outside each night with my dog and flashlight and see people surrounding my property making sure no coyote or skunk or possum or raccoon could harm me or my dog? The workers on the wall were instructed to work with one hand carrying supplies and the other hand holding a weapon.
And Nehemiah had a trumpet player on standby in case one section of the wall was attacked. He told them that the sound of the trumpet would let them know there was trouble and that the enemy was attacking a particular section of the wall. When they heard the sound of the trumpet, they were to come to that section and help their friends fight the enemy.
I’m a trumpet player. I would have loved to have had the privilege of warning all the people that the enemy was approaching.
I wish I had paid attention to the sound of the trumpet when I was facing a dangerous enemy.
But the truth about you and me is that we have often heard the sound of the trumpet and ignored it. The sounds of darkness intrigued us. We momentarily forgot that in the sounds of rustling leaves there was an enemy who had one desire: to hurt us. We forgot that the last time we encountered this enemy, we were wounded. Scarred. Hurt. Defeated.
What are you hiding? What is the unseen enemy in your life that keeps attacking?