Against termites, for example.
There are termites that tunnel underneath our house and come up in different corners inside our home. For about a year they came up a tunnel on our bathroom wall and didn’t go in the rafters or cause any problems. Because I had other things causing actual problems, I didn’t mess with the things that yes, shouldn’t be there, but weren’t doing any real damage.
But one afternoon when Larry had the kids, I decided I needed to rid the house of all the inactive termite trails. There were a bunch. It took me almost an hour to sweep all the tunnels off the wooden rafters and walls all throughout our house. Turns out, small black ants were using some of the empty termite trails. They weren’t doing any damage, but it felt victorious to rid these pests from our home.
But that one trail in the bathroom, man. It was active with termites. I swept it all off, checked in the rafters to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere and was satisfied. Within hours, the fresh mud-sand substance was back on the wall. I swept it off and poured kerosene on it. Urban legend says kerosene keeps them away. Please note: urban legends lie.
I kept up this fierce battle with the termites for about a week. I’d knock it down, and they would build it back up. But after about three sweeps, I noticed that it took more hours than before for them to build the tunnel back up. Finally, the trail ceased to exist. I declared victory.
This was about six weeks ago. Today one of our kids’ books had termites in it. The stealth underground warriors found a new corner in which to infiltrate our home.
This required so much more work. I had to move the kids’ solid wood bunk bed to clean all around the perimeter of the bedroom wall. I moved another heavy wooden shelf that holds the younger kids’ books, four backpacks and four “my personal things” boxes away from the wall.
This was a tragedy. Maybe a travesty. All I know is that it was horrible. Their boxes that only accumulate and are never emptied or cherished spilled everywhere. And now they were mixed with termite sand. And creepy crawling termites. To make things even more lovely, that area of the house is always wet because of our high humidity. The floor looked as if water had spilled all over it, papers were stuck to the concrete floor by termite glue, and the situation was not enhanced by my anxiety due to swarms of live bugs crawling all over everything everywhere.
When I lived in Minnesota I didn’t understand the “God giving dominion of the world to humans” idea. But living here where people let chickens lay eggs on their bed pillows (“that’s where she wants to do it”), I understand that there is a place for animals in this world. And it is not in the house. Our home is our dominion, our place to put things in order, our responsibility to say, “you can be outside, termites. You probably have some purpose in this world. But you cannot come inside.”
So I got angry at the termites. I told them they had stepped over the boundary. This is not their home. It is ours. “You shall not pass!” I declared as Gandalf.
In my life I have recognized areas of sin and have submitted them to God. For awhile, I wore a hair band around my wrist and changed it to the other hand every time I had an impatient response with my kids. I was trying to get a day without having to change it. I think it happened once. As a result of this practice, I became more patient. But as I left the discipline of moving the hair band, my impatience has gone unchecked and it is back—and worse. Like the termites that found another corner. Like the evil spirit who brought his friends to the house and found that it was swept clean. “The final condition of that person was worse than the first” (Matthew 12:43-45). The condition of that school room (and my patience) was worse than a simple line of termite tunnel on our bathroom wall.
Of course, the answer is to kill the termites in their nest. We need to get to the source of our sin nature and nail it to the cross and let it die die die, never to return. And then let the Spirit of God live in us and through us so the space is not empty but filled with His Very Presence. That’s a pretty good venom.
For now, I am vigilant. I still have the shelf and bed away from the wall to make sure the termites don’t come back to the same spot. And I will be more aware of all the other hidden corners of our house where they might want to come up. If they came in only through the front door it would be so much easier to keep them out. But once we are aware of it, sin rarely gets access in the easy openings. It has to burrow underground and come in through a dark neglected corner. While I look for the termite nest, I am going to be aware of the hidden places and stand firm on my dominion.
I have my broom and the Cross ready.