Jayber, our 90-pound goldendoodle, woke me up in the middle of the night with a scared-sounding bark from the living room where he normally sleeps stretched out on the couch. I lay there half-awake for a few minutes trying to decide if I should get up and see what was going on or just go back to sleep. I finally decided I better check it out, so I got up and walked down the hall to the living room. I saw Jayber standing in the middle of the room at attention, back to me, not moving a muscle, staring toward the dining room. My eyes followed his gaze, and I saw two sets of eyes staring back at me. Oh great; there was some sort of animal in the dining room.
I walked across the living room to get a closer look. It was a raccoon—a big raccoon. It was sitting at the far side of the dining room, it’s back to the wall, also not moving a muscle. Jayber and the raccoon were engaged in a kind of staring contest 20 feet apart.
I realized pretty quickly that the raccoon must have come in through the doggy door, which is through the laundry room next to the dining room. My biggest concern was that it would leave the dining room area and start running around the house. Jayber and I hustled back to the bedroom. I turned on the light for some reason and announced to Jamie, who was fast asleep: There’s a huge raccoon in the dining room. I was wanting to get something to take with me back out there. There was some sort of foam yoga rolling pin type thing under the bed. I grabbed that. Jamie reached under her side of the bed and handed me a baseball bat. No, take this, she said.
Good idea, I said.
I headed out of the bedroom alone to confront the intruder. Jayber stayed behind in the bedroom. Clearly, he was going to tag team this thing. He was more than relieved to hand off responsibility to me now.
I approached the dining room and banged the baseball bat on the floor and told the raccoon to get out. He didn’t move. I wanted to drive him out of the dining room, through the laundry room, and back out the doggy door. I kept getting a little closer, banging the bat on the floor, and commanding him to get out, but he wasn’t moving. Finally he started moving slowly along the wall around the dining room table toward the door to the laundry room. I followed behind, keeping my distance but banging the bat on the floor to keep him moving. He was OJ Simpson and Al Cowlings in the white Ford Bronco; it was a low-speed chase.
He headed into the laundry room, but instead of heading straight out the doggy door, he turned left. To the left was a dead-end of cleaning supplies and stacked up boxes of books. I really didn’t want a raccoon coming at me with his claws, but I got closer than I wanted to trying to get him out of that area and headed back toward the doggy door. I was imagining jumping up onto the dryer if he came at my legs.
Clearly he had forgotten the way out. Finally, staying as far away from him as I could, I reached over, opened the door, and stepped back out of his way, and he went out and ran through the garage and into the backyard out of sight.
I went back to the bedroom, to find the brave 90-pound Jayber peeking around the door looking down the hall. Jamie said he stayed right there in the bedroom the whole time, just poking his head out to stay apprised of the situation.
How do you deal with threatening situations? I imagined that maybe Jayber was Atticus Finch sitting in front of the jail door, that he was on guard there in the doorway protecting Jamie. He was a hero. Sometimes when a threat comes we are called on to stand firm and protect the ones we love.
Or maybe Jayber was like the harpooner in Moby Dick. There is a turbulent scene in Melville’s novel in which a whaleboat sails along the rough ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, Moby Dick. The sailors are laboring fiercely, throwing all their attention and energy into the task.
It is the conflict between good and evil, the chaotic sea and demonic sea monster versus the morally outraged man, Captain Ahab.
In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing.
He doesn’t hold an oar;
he doesn’t strain; and
He is still amid the crash of waves and the furious activity of the sailors. The man is the harpooner,
And then Melville writes this sentence: To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.
There are a thousand good things that need to be done when some fearful thing has intruded into our lives. We have much to do.
But if the harpooner is rowing and not ready with his dart, he’ll never complete his task. If the harpooner is exhausted, running around frantically on the deck of the ship, he won’t be ready and accurate when it’s his time to do his thing.
Maybe Jayber was being still, waiting, ready to act when and if his moment came. Sometimes it’s OK, in a crisis, to be still and wait.
I’m overthinking it, I know. Being overly dramatic. Probably he was just scared. And there’s nothing shameful in that, either. Sometimes when the fearful moment comes, it is OK to stay back with one of the people you love while another of the people you love takes care of the situation. Sometimes it’s OK to let someone else step in and handle a situation that seems overwhelming. Every now and then you can stay in the bedroom and peek around the door and down the hall to where the action is. There’s no shame in that.
I don’t know. It did seem that Jayber was happy for me to venture out to do battle with the raccoon and for him to stay in the doorway of the bedroom and “guard” Jamie. And peek around the door to make sure everything was going to be OK.
Madeleine L’Engle says that God is always calling on us to do the impossible. And we may think the impossible is always some kind of heroic, Olympian feat, balancing on a high wire or a balance beam or walking on water or singlehandedly vanquishing the dragon.
But maybe, especially for some of us who think we are are in charge and are required to handle everything that comes our way, maybe sometimes the impossible that God calls us to is to simply be still with the ones you love and trust that you are going to be OK.