A story circulates about a couple of mice. These mouseholders have taken up residence in a woodpile that a certain farmer was sifting through for firewood. He was readying his house for winter, as was this mouse couple. At the bottom of the woodpile their nest would be dry and warm in all but the wettest of storms, prepared for the young ones that would surely be coming soon. The farmer felt sorry for them as he deconstructed their carefully built lives, one log at a time loading up his station wagon. Such cute little creatures, so hopeful for the future, yet so filled with terror at what is happening to them. You can imagine their conversation: "What's going on, dear?" the mouse bride cries. "I don't know," her husband answers. "Nothing like this has ever happened before." He's wrong, of course. Change happens -- constantly. But, thankfully, it's not too often that our entire lives are altered forever by external events.
But abrupt change does happen. I spoke with someone who, back in the 1960's, had plans after high school but received a draft notice: "Greetings from the President of the United States." His carefully constructed life suddenly took a sharp turn. You've had some of those turns, too: the death of someone very close to you, divorce, loss of a job, failure of a business, an illness or injury. Suddenly, life is not the same and never will be again. Everything's different. And we try to cope -- sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes in self-destructive ways.
The farmer kept loading the firewood into the back of the station wagon. Then he notices one of the tiny mice clinging to a piece of firewood in the back of the car. Another few seconds and he would have been crushed. He picked him up by his long tail, set him on the ground, and went back to get more logs. When he returned the mouse is still at the same place on the ground where he put him -- stunned by these events, barely able to get out of harm's way. We're so mouse-like sometimes. Life goes on. The props change, sometimes all too often. We're so tempted to cling to the props as they are being dragged off the set. And sometimes we're hurt because of our inability to let go, so attached to the bits and pieces of the past that it's impossibly for us to welcome the future.
Change requires courage, great helpings of it. My mind goes to Joshua in the Bible. For nearly forty years he has been an understudy to the great leader Moses. Now Moses is dead and leadership is thrust fully upon Joshua. Ahead is the Jordan River running at flood stage, and beyond that the fortified cieties of Canaan -- the "Promised Land" that seems so elusive. Talk about change? Joshua has change swirling all around him. And God speaks to him a word: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
The mouse couple looks up as their world is trembling. One by one the logs that comprise their shelter are disappearing, and soon only open sky is above. What do you do? Do you cling to the firewood and risk being crushed by it? Or do you cling to God's promise to you? God has promised to be with you wherever you go. God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. What God asks of you is faith to overcome your terror, courage to meet your discouragement, and confidence to draw on God's strength. Change is constant. No part of our lives will endure unchanged for more than a few years, a few decades at most. But the Lord our God is unchangeable. God is forever. You can put down your roots into God, knowing that in this way you will never be utterly uprooted again.
I think of Mr. and Mrs. Mouse. My heart goes out to them. I've been where they are, and so have you. And I hope that they dragged their nest into another shelter in the woods to keep them dry and warm for the winter. I hope that Mr. Mouse has finally got over his shock and got with the program. Older now, and wise they are. And if I could offer just one word of advice for them for you -- and for me -- it would be this: Don't cling to the firewood. As we continue to deal with the continuing threat of a pandemic, and possibly other, unforeseen dangers and challenges in 2021, I pray for you to have the courage and strength only faith can provide. May you have a bold New Year!