True story. Living in the country with little adventurous boys has taught me many, many life lessons. And there seems to be a spiritual lesson in the most unlikely and hilarious moments.
Several years ago my boys and their cousin came running into my house holding nasty, squeaky little naked possums. They were beyond upset (the kids and the possums), the mother possum apparently was allowing the little helpless babies to fall out of the tree limb she was resting on.
I ran out into the woods to see, who wouldn’t be curious? It was true. In broad daylight, (aren’t possums nocturnal, I thought to myself?) this huge mother possum stood out on a narrow tree limb high above our heads. Hanging precariously by their fingertips, from her stomach, were little tiny baby possums. Dangling over the edge of the limb, and yes, plopping several feet down onto the ground! One by one, these ugly but precious babies were falling to their death. Or so we thought.
In a panic, we were scrambling to pick up the babies and running frantically to the house. Obviously this mother was unfit to care for babies!!! I don’t know what we thought we could do but I was determined she did not deserve custody any longer!
I called the TWRA, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (that is The Authority at our house, right after Jesus and the Bible, we all have TWRA Hotline programmed into our phone). I realize that this was not a high priority to TWRA and wildlife officers, but who else could I turn to? I had baby possums in my care and it looked like I would be raising them. HELP.
To speed up this story, let me say this. I was laughed off the phone. The game warden I spoke to, kindly, between bursts of laughter, informed me that baby possums bounce and more than likely the mother was teaching them to come when she called and how to climb trees. “You can’t kill a possum by dropping it.” His exact words. Evidently this was a very important possum lesson. I was told to put the babies back at the bottom of the tree and wait.
Chagrined and humiliated, we plodded back outside to the woods. Mama Possum remained on the limb, barely blinking at us through bleary eyes (she like all mothers of preschoolers looked eternally tired). We carefully put the babies on the ground underneath her and stepped back.
She called them to her. She made a rather unpleasant sound, to me anyway, and the babies began quickly scrambling through the underbrush climbing the closest limb or branch they could reach. When we realized what they were trying to do, what she was trying to do for them, we couldn’t resist and directed them to HER tree. (seriously some of them were clawing their way up the wrong bush or tree and it was too painful to watch) We lingered and listened and watched as that mama possum taught her babies.
Thinking on this story for several years now, I can see in my mind clearly the patience she showed. She sat on that limb for a long time, knowing the babies would eventually tire of holding on to her and drop to the ground. They had to let go and drop and hit the ground so she could call them back to her. So they could learn to climb the tree, where safety lies.
I thought she was a bad, bad, awful mother. But now with teenagers, driving cars and working and living life and making mistakes. I want to be that mama possum. Patiently waiting, calling them back to me, knowing the fall WILL hurt but WILL teach them how to climb higher and move toward safety. If the mama possum didn’t go out on that limb, her babies would never let go, and they would live in that tree forever. If those possums didn’t let go, they would never learn to climb. If they never learned to climb, they would be at the mercy of predators on the ground. Possums don’t have a lot of self defense techniques, even though they look and sound tough and confident, they are really a lot of hot air (kinda like teens and young adults sometimes). They need to hit the ground. To learn to climb. To listen to the voice of the Lord. To live and to be safe.
I want my children to know their Savior’s call. I want them to learn lessons under the watch of my husband and myself. I want to be like that mother possum and let them fall sometimes, to learn but always call them back. I so admire Mama Possum.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 (In this case I can now imagine Him gently leading, not just a mother sheep, but a possum and even me! Gently lead me Lord, thank you for gathering my children in your arms and carrying them close to your heart. Amen