Have you heard that it has been raining a lot lately? It brought everything back to life after the bush fires. The burned bush regenerates itself. We have grass instead of stubble in our garden. It is lush and green and knee-deep.
We also have new life in our house. Rats live up in our roof. They are huge.
Yesterday Gemma-Rose asked me: “Why did God create rats?” As far as she could see, they are not contributing anything useful to the world.
My youngest daughter said, “You are not even good to eat!”
Imagine eating rats. Could you do that?
“I know someone who has eaten rats,” I said. “You kept him alive.”
And then I told the story of Father Fred, who was our pastor when our son died.
A few days after Thomas’ death, I visited Father Fred to arrange the funeral. Father asked me how I was.
“I am angry!” I said. “I’m angry with the doctors who said Thomas was going to die. They didn’t listen to me when I said God could save him. And I’m angry with God. I prayed so hard. I wanted Thomas so much. I told everyone that God can work miracles. Why didn’t he save Thomas? Why did he let him die? “
Why should God allow such suffering? It didn’t make sense to me. I asked myself: would I survive the pain?
Father Fred told me that when he was younger he was angry with God. And then he shared this story:
When Father Fred was a seminarian in Vietnam, the Communist government arrested him and put him in prison. The conditions were tough. Father Fred and the other seminarians did not get enough to eat. They had to eat rats to survive. At that time, Father Fred wondered why God had allowed such terrible things to happen to him. Didn’t God know how much Father Fred loved him? He had been willing to give his life to God and respond to the call to the priesthood, but look where he ended up. It didn’t make sense.
Father Fred’s anger at God finally disappeared. He accepted his situation. And he trusted that God would save him, that his suffering made sense.
After Father Fred was released from prison, he came to Australia for a life he could never have imagined. Although it had been difficult to see at times, God had looked after Father Fred.
And God took care of me. He hadn’t left me. Father Fred told me that. I just had to trust.
“If there were no rats in the world,” I said to Gemma-Rose, “Father Fred would have died.” He would not have been a priest. We would not have met him. He would never have carried Thomas’ coffin to his grave. He would never have comforted me if I had struggled to survive. He wouldn’t have taught me anything about trust.
I suppose God created rats for a very good reason.
After I finished this story, I thought, “Did Father Fred really eat rats?” Maybe my memory is not reliable. Could I have imagined Father saying, “We ate rats to survive”?
I kept a diary for the year after Thomas’ death. I wondered if I had written an entry about Father Fred’s experience in prison, looked up my diary, and turned the pages until I got the following words:
Father Fred invited me to the presbytery and we talked about being angry with God. He was angry with God when he was in prison in Vietnam for being a seminarian. I know that Father Fred has suffered so much. Father assured me that in retrospect you can see the good that comes from a time of suffering. And if you look at Father, there is hope …
There is more, but nothing about rats.
It is strange how we can believe something. It is definitely part of the story. But then we start to ask: did I invent it? Maybe our brains find it difficult to accept unusual things. They are trying to get us back to what we know.
But Father Fred must have eaten rats to survive. It really happened. If not, why did God create rats?
I have a short story about trust. I recently posted it on Instagram.
He is my youngest daughter Gemma-Rose and our dog Nora. Nora eats cats. It is not your fault. Someone bred them for hunting. And then she left. Then we saved her.
In addition to Nora, we also have a dog. And we also have three cats. A cat eating dog and three cats? Life is very interesting.
We usually keep the cats and Nora separate. But sometimes the dog slips past us. With a grin on her face, Nora chases the cats around the house. The cats run. The cats hiss. We shout: “Grab the cats!” We throw ourselves. The cats scratch. We shout: “catch Nora!” We throw ourselves on the dog. We pull her to the door and push her back into the garden. Then we examine our wounds: some angry red cat scratches on our arms and a few bruises on our knees.
At night, Nora sleeps in my bedroom. Every morning I take her by the collar and walk her from the bedroom through the house to the back door. On the way we have to pass the three cats. You think they’ll run as soon as Nora shows up, right? But they don’t. They keep doing whatever they do. They refuse to avoid us.
The cats know how dangerous Nora is. Why don’t they run away as soon as they see the dog? Is it because you trust me? Do you know that Nora can’t hurt her while I hold her collar?
Trust. Total trust. Do our children trust us so much? Do you feel safe when we’re around? Nothing can harm them while we’re there. We are your safe place. Your refuge from the world. If we love our children unconditionally, forgive their mistakes immediately, accept them for what they are, and trust them, they trust us. Trust? It is the basis of the school system, isn’t it?
The dog photo was taken a few years ago when Nora was a puppy and Gemma-Rose was 11 years old.
The cat photos were taken relatively recently. Our cats are fat and lazy and quite old. You cannot catch rats. But Nora can.
Our dog Nora eats cats and rats. It is not your fault. Someone bred them for hunting …
So I’m wondering
Do you have a rat story Maybe it’s good. Some people like rats.
Our son Callum once had a pet rat. It was called Mr. Tulip. Callum had two rats for a short time. But Mr. Tulip was not happy with his new cage friend. A murder was committed in the middle of the night. The next morning Callum discovered that Mr. Tulip was grinning. He was the only pet rat now.
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