She clung to the tree with all that she had. Slowly one long sharp claw at a time began to lose grip in a desperate attempt to remain right where she was.
A few minutes prior, Moses, our German Shorthaired Pointer had found this raccoon momma laying on the ground under the tree. By the time I arrived at the scene, they were having a staring contest almost nose to nose. One would have thought that neither one of them knew what kind of creature the other was.
By the time my husband and daughter arrived, the raccoon, with her irresistible cuteness, slowly and vulnerably looked each one of us in the eyes. We wondered if she was hurt, possibly falling out of the tree. The previous morning Moses had treed a mysterious creature in this same location of our yard. It would make sense that this very raccoon had been the mysterious creature either finding a location to give birth to her babies or finding a location to move them. Making her temporary home in the high branches of the tree would have been a safe haven for her when she had noticed a wet snout from a bird dog headed her way.
Just when we had considered possibly becoming her rescuers she darted to the tree and struck the very pose you see in this photo.
Minutes passed as she clung to the tree probably praying that we would leave. She hoped that she would not have to either climb further up or defend herself in a famous raccoon way. We decided to relocate to the deck to spy on her from afar.
Her fear continued to grip her as she gripped to the completely vertical tree bark. Eventually her claws gave way and she rolled to the ornamental grasses below. A bit stunned, she then made her way to the safety of some tall plants by our house and disappeared.
Although raccoons have a reputation of fierceness and being predators of chickens, it was clear that she was more fearful of us than she hoped we were of her. Her fear made her think unclearly and she allowed it to control her for as long as we were witnesses.
How many times have we done the same? We fear a lot in this world we live in don’t we? From sickness and death…to loss of a job and financial security. We fear for the safety of loved ones. We fear the uncertainty of the future. We are even afraid to admit we are afraid of these things. If we go back even further, we can remember fearing the lights being turned off at night. We were afraid of the creature hiding under our bed to grab our feet at night unless they were securely covered by a blanket. We were afraid of that weird creaking noise and we feared that spoonful of nasty medicine our mom made us take when we were sick.
Fear is quite often our “go to” when we do not know what to expect. When we find ourselves in a situation beyond our control, we forget the promises found in Scripture…
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
At the time this beautiful piece of scripture was spoken, Jesus was with his disciples in the upper room partaking in the famous “last supper”. Jesus had explained to them that he would no longer be with them and that the Father would send the Holy Spirit.
Imagine you are with those who mean the most to you for the last time. Chances are you will not be discussing the weather or the game. You probably won’t be analyzing the plot of the movie you watched last week. You will be talking about the things that matter the most to you. Your legacy, your advice, your most desired wishes. You want to make sure your loved ones know how much you love them. You want to make sure they can see past their upcoming grief and take hold of a beautiful future in store for them. Jesus wanted the same.
He explained to them that fear does not have to hold them for ransom. His peace and his comfort are enough. But his peace is not that which the world tries to give.
The actual meaning of the word “peace” Jesus refers to in this passage is “shalom”. This actual meaning is not the same as some other meanings of peace. At times, the word “peace” refers to a time without war, an attitude, or not having feelings of hostility. However, the term Jesus refers to here is so much more. Shalom means completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.
One of the frequently used names of God the Hebrew people used was Jehovah-shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” or “The Lord is our peace.” Therefore, the gift Jesus leaves is so much more than a feeling. It is HIS completeness, His soundness, His welfare, and His peace.
I don’t know about you but that’s the kind of peace I need. How did Jesus sleep in a boat during a raging storm? How did Jesus continue to walk through his short time on earth knowing what his walk to Calvary would entail? Shalom. Completeness…soundness…A peace found only in Jehovah-shalom…in even the most agonizing of situations.
Momma Raccoon may have been facing one of the scariest times in her life that day we found her. If only she understood that the bird dog she saw was actually a gentle giant. If only she understood that the humans known as the “Mayfields” were willing to nurse her back to health if necessary. If only she understood her situation was not what it appeared.
Shalom was what Momma Raccoon needed that day. Shalom is what we need everyday. Stop clinging desperately to that tree branch that can hardly hold its own weight. Cling to the one true vine and the source of life.