Of the many opportunities for spiritual growth afforded by life in the great city of New York, I now count a bout with pestilence among the best of them.
Not frogs, nor gnats. Not locusts, though this Biblical plague seems to be the closest to our experience. No, my family’s battle has been with good old disgusting, evil, awful, New York City cockroaches.
It is commonly known across the five boroughs that cockroaches were around even before the dinosaurs, a fact that saddens the most optimistic among us. “How can we ever beat such an adaptable pest?” we all wonder collectively. A year since my family’s infestation, I can offer a variety of ways to reduce the number of the despised adversaries, but more importantly, I can offer some solid spiritual lessons I have learned along the way.
1: The Old Testament is Alive!
Oftentimes, we modern men and women can feel quite baffled by the rather bizarre occurrences of God’s ancient people: Abraham was really going to kill his son Isaac?? Noah got it all right with the Ark, the dove, and the rainbow and all that, simply to succumb to drunkenness soon thereafter, pass out naked in his tent, leaving his sons to come cover him and restore his dignity. It takes no small number of “Jesus, I trust in You” prayers to begin to have an open heart to some of these stories.
Yet, the scriptures reveal the very heart of our God: always challenging us like Abraham, and not expecting us to be perfect to use us in big ways like Noah. The stories of the plagues and pestilences of Moses, Pharoh, and the Hebrew people so too reveal our loving Father’s heart: He will drive us crazy to the point of tears and exhaustion, battling the creepy-crawlies in ancient times and today, to take us into a deeper experience of His reality.
Unlike stubborn Pharoh, however, God has my heart at plague numero uno; no need to send nine more, okay Father? Which leads me to the next gift of these vexing hexapods:
2: Don’t Get Lazy in the Spiritual Battle
All my family is healthy, safe and blessed with a mostly peaceful life.
Then, a simple preventative spray from our building’s jovial exterminator that fateful Wednesday afternoon (if he had only been abrasive or unnerving in some way, maybe my husband would have dismissed him), and now a year’s battle of a kitchen and bathroom plagued by tall, grande, and venti roach varieties. Lord, have mercy on us, please!
What can a human do when faced with the nauseating site of roach breeding on over-drive? Armed with Windex and a trusty sponge, I HAVE LEARNED TO HUNT these creatures: find out where they thrive (warm, damp spaces) and go in for the kill, day in and day out.
If Satan looks like a roach, which I of course believe he does, then he too must be hunted, along with all his tall, grande and venti demon friends.
The nauseating visual of the cockroaches has been a reminder of all the ugliness that can creep into our souls and the world if we forget the invisible realities. If I go from the laundry to cooking without remembering to offer my work for the good side of the salvation battle, if I grow lazy in recognizing the selfishness in my own heart, then I miss the greatest opportunity of this life: to work side by side and heart to heart with Our Lord Jesus.
As a family, our recitation of the St. Michael Prayer has increased ten-fold: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”
In one version this prayer describes the evil spirits as wandering about, while another version as prowling about. My roach friends do seem to do an awful lot of wandering, yes; but my gut tells me that the invisible ones hunt us with more of a prowl. Let us, therefore, awake! Arise! Increase the love and prayers streaming from our hearts!
3: Don’t be Afraid. Really.
Our superintendent patched holes and sealed cracking pipe covers, and my husband installed plug-in pulsators that claim to scare away vermin. (Do the pulsators really work you might wonder? Probably not-so-much, but keeping hopeful is half the battle!)
And, yes, thankfully, about 10 months later, our bugs have mostly left to wherever these prehistoric exasperators go to continue their seemingly endless existence.
After 10 months, (wow, I can’t believe this is true), I can now smack those suckers bare-handed! Yikes! Not the medium and large ones (or grande and venti if we are going with the Starbucks analogy), but the little ones, yes; all the time.
From where do we fragile humans gain such strength? I’m sure fellow homeschooling families can look back at their first days of home education, with a similar awe and wonder. How did we go from trepidatious novices to peaceful, confident teachers of our children?
Simply put, we put away our fear.
Who among us didn’t get misty when media outlets, secular and religious, ran vintage footage of Pope Saint John Paul II over his canonization weekend, oh-so-calmly and fatherly-like reminding us (in a fabulous Polish accent), “do not be afraid.” And these words, if we let them, in imitation of the numerous times Our Lord said the same in the Scriptures, echo endlessly in our hearts…
Okay, Saint JPII up in heaven, we won’t be afraid with you interceding for us. Together, as David prayed so beautifully in Psalm 91, we pray: “You shall not fear… the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.”
Header Image CC siamesepuppy