17 He who, passing by, stops to meddle with strife that is none of his business is like one who takes a dog by the ears. (Book of Proverbs, Chapter 26, Verse 17, Amplified Version)
When I was growing up, we had rabbit ears on top of our TV. Those days are long gone by. Today we don’t have rabbit ears on top of the TV, we have dog ears coming out of it, constantly. Never an hour goes by but what the news media make us aware of some conflict. Not only do the media make us aware, they generally bias us toward one side of the issue, depending on their agenda.
No matter how strongly we may feel nor how important the conflicts brought to our attention, we can not fight them all. We can not right every wrong. On the other hand, we often hear of individuals who choose a cause against a Goliath and win. So what are we to do in this world of local and global injustice?
A number of years ago, I read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. Then, I read the sequel, Piercing the Darkness. I found the books engrossing. I didn’t want to stop reading. One analogy from the books that sticks with me still is the gopher hole.
At one time before reading This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, my wife Liliane, our two sons, Anton and Brenden, and I lived on a hill in the Black Forest area north of Colorado Springs. That’s the general area of the recent terrible fires. We lived in a geodesic dome house, something like a Hobbit hole above ground. Our view was toward the magnificent spectacle of the Rampart Range of the Rocky Mountains and the sprawling campus of the Air Force Academy in the distance. I was going to make that our home til eternal home going time. So I planted lots of little trees, trusting they would grow in a few years into our own little private forest.
One snowy morning, I looked out the window and noticed the barren trunks of several of my precious saplings tilting at a strange angle. The saplings had no leaves to catch the strong winds and at the moment there was scarcely a breeze. They were not bending before the wind.
My heart sank. I went out and tried to right one sapling. It came loose from the earth and snow. There were no roots left. There I stood with a rootless little trunk in my hand, looking around at dozens more of my hard planted treasures tilting at various angles. One by one I checked. None had any roots left.
We had gophers on our hill in the Black Forest. Protected from the harsh cold and biting winds, the gophers simply burrowed from tree to tree feasting on the winter delicacy of tender roots. It was not hard work for them. I had dug deep and broad to plant each tree, loosening and mulching the hard soil so the little roots could spread rapidly, establishing their life grip on the hill. Now the roots had become, well, gopher poop somewhere in that web of little tunnels.
As I recall it was in This Present Darkness that Peretti introduced the gopher metaphor. If a farmer or rancher or gardener goes out and sees this plant dying, that plant disappeared, and another one over on the far side of the ranch farm or garden withering, maybe there is one single cause at the root, literally, of each lose, even though the dying plants may be of different sorts and in very different locations. This metaphor resonated with me after having mourned the loss of my trees back in Colorado and the evaporated promise of a future private forest where I would retire.
As report after report of evil doings at home and around the world come to your attention, think gophers. Do you want to do something about these things? Then, don’t start with just replanting trees. Get rid of the gophers.
Oh, Lord, please help me get rid of the spiritual gophers eating at the roots of my life, cutting off the future hope of my children, my own little saplings, undermining the hope of our neighborhoods and communities and robbing vast international populations of even the barest sustenance. Help me, Oh Lord, to be a spiritual gopher exterminator. Let me not just go around grabbing dogs by the ears. Help me deal with the spiritual roots of the problems.