I was very excited to be getting my stuff back. I had stored several boxes of belongings in the bowels of the Teen Challenge Center, and it had sat there for several months. There had been countless occasions when I went searching for something only to realize: “Oh yeah; it’s in the bowels.” But Sunday I was at last moving into the larger living space I have been anticipating for some time. Now I could get my stuff back again. I walked to the center and went bounding down into the basement. There were four or five boxes stored down there, and I began opening them up to make sure it was my stuff in them, even though I had painstakingly written my name in permanent marker on the top and front of each box. I got to the third or fourth box, and as I began looking through it, I became perplexed. The contents were jumbled and untidy—quite the opposite of the way I always pack. Inexplicably, there was a proliferation of some confetti-like substance all over everything, which upon further inspection turned out to be bits of shiny plastic. Wrappers.
Then it hit me: mice. I remembered then that, without thinking, I had stored half a dozen of those energy bars in with the rest of my things. At the time, I had been biking all over God’s creation, both to lose weight and to improve my overall health. So I had been eating energy bars, and some of them had ended up in this box. Now there was nothing left but confetti. And mouse feces. It was all over everything in the box. Naturally, while the mice had sat in the box, eating happily, they had also been relieving themselves, even as they ate. For a mouse, even a single energy bar is a very large amount of food. During the lengthy process of eating it, the mouse, along with his friends and family members, had occasion to make many, many discharges. No doubt much of the food that was eaten was deposited right back into the box, albeit in a different form. (How is it that mice, rabbits and moose all produce fecal units that are identical in size and shape?) For all I know, the little varmints ate themselves into a stupor and simply slept it off right there in the box, only to wake later and resume eating. This may well have gone on for several days.
Even as I handled chewed-through picture frames and a frayed knit cap I had received as a Christmas gift, it occurred to me that these creatures were doing what they were supposed to be doing. They had to make a living somehow, for heaven’s sake, and I was dumb to store food, particularly in the basement of an old warehouse. Those mice made what was surely the score of their short lives when they found the box that tantalizing aroma was coming from.
This whole thing made me think about the fact that humans, in their clever industriousness, often overlook (and even try to override) the natural order. Life as God created it is a now phenomenon. Food decays for a reason. God didn’t intend for people to store up their food. He intended for us to receive our food, as it were, from His hand to our mouths. Picture Adam in the Garden, plucking succulent pears right from the tree whenever his stomach gave the slightest rumble. The principle of hand-to-mouth provision is set forth repeatedly in Scripture, such as in the account of the Israelites and their 40-year circuitous journey through the desert. While the Exodus was going on, God told the Israelites not to gather more than a day’s supply of manna. But of course they disregarded God and did it anyway, and the stored manna was full of maggots by the following morning.
So even though I ended up with a boxful of chewed-through, smelly things, I can’t be too angry at what happened. That food was meant to be eaten now, not later on. And after all, I guess even mice are entitled to life’s unexpected bounties.
“Whenever man comes up with a better mousetrap, nature immediately comes up with a better mouse.” –James Carswell