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Written by: C. W. Booth

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Christian Possums

My neighbor went away for the weekend. She has been having chipmunk problems (very costly foundation undermining type chipmunk problems), so she set a live-trap and asked me to tend it in her absence. And she asked me to care for her dog at the same time. Last night while I tended to the dog I checked the live-trap. Nothing there. I went to bed.

This morning the live-trap had a possum in it. Thinking it had only been a few hours, I thought to raise the trap lid and let the animal go. However, as I approached the trap and studied the critter, it was already dead, curled up, eyes open. I rattled the trap to ensure the critter was deceased. Since the animal had died during the night, I left it where it was, took care of the dog, and went to church.

When I got home from church, I went to take care of the dog, and I passed the trap as I did so. Something was wrong. The possum was lying in a different position. I guessed I had been wrong about it having died in the night. So I set about releasing the critter. As I approached the cage I detected the unmistakable stench of a dead animal. It dawned on me that the critter had died while I was at church. I poked it with a stick to be sure, and left the deceased carcass where it was in the cage and returned home for lunch.

Only then did an old idiom come to mind, "he’s just playing possum." Since I had only seen possums in pictures, I had no frame of reference for how well possums did or did not play dead, or if the saying was even true to any degree at all. One more time I walked over to the neighbor’s house. I studied the cage, no movement. My wife walked up offering impeccably pragmatic and helpful suggestions: "Watch out, don’t let it bite you, it might have rabies, if it’s dead let it alone, get some gloves on, it might attack you, I hear those things are vicious, why don’t you leave it alone…"

I picked up the cage and balanced it between two trash cans. No movement. I tried opening the cage but the mechanism was thoroughly jammed. My wife walked up and began offering a second set of string of faultlessly practical and beneficial ideas. I left the cage precariously balanced on the trash cans as I returned to fetch some tools from my garage as my wife continued to deliver her suggestions to the obviously dead rodent.

When I returned, the cage was still dangerously perched, and by now it seemed very certain the creature was quite expired. As I worked the tools on the cage door, I noticed the eyes of the animal…did they half blink?…slowly…I think, maybe. Finally the cage door popped open and I set the cage in the grass with the door off. I then poked the unresponsive creature with a stick to encourage it to leave, assuming it was only almost dead. It did not move. I left it alone, checking up on it ever half hour or so. Nothing but flies were moving there. My wife stopped by the neighbor’s house after an hour and a half, and when she came back home she declared to me the thing was definitely not alive.

Several hours later I went back. The creature was gone. It left a trail through the uncut grass where it had walked away from the cage into thick weeds. The smelly thing was gone, alive, but very much gone. I now understood the expression, "playing possum."

As I walked back to my house, bemused that the thing had so successfully fooled me, I considered the fact that Christians are not to be possums. God does not want us playing dead so well that the world can poke us, toss us around, and never think twice that we are alive or in any way different than than they. The neighbors should not wonder if anything alive lives over in that house.

Christians are a living body. Our dead spirits were made alive by Christ. Why would we pretend to be dead again? We were called out of the world to change the world, to shout back to it, "Wake up and live!"

For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:14-16)

God did not call us to be possums, but to release the possums from their self-imposed slumbers.



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Page Originally Posted: October 29, 2009
Page Last Revised: October 29, 2009