Ordinary Battles

Our lives are made up of ordinary decisions, ordinary challenges, ordinary battles. The regular decisions to get out of bed in the morning, to go to work, to return home at night. The ordinary battles of exercising, of eating food that nourishes our bodies, of keeping the house or apartment tidy. Within the last seven weeks, the world has shifted in fundamental ways. In fact, many of us find that our days, our neighborhoods, our routines are hardly recognizable anymore. Many of us are home, trying to work, school our kids, and find beauty in a world that has shrunk to the confines of our walls and yet expanded to include the entire planet as we monitor the daily case and fatality numbers.

In the midst of such drastic contraction and expansion, I have found myself waging war. Waging war on my selfishness and impatience, but also waging war on clutter, mold…and roaches. Our family moved across town six weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic began. We have been living with social distancing in our new neighborhood longer than we lived without it. This extraordinary time has given me the opportunity to become intimately acquainted with our new house – its creaky boards, spots where mold collects, and its six-legged denizens.

I noticed the roaches before we moved in. In the week prior to our move, I spent many hours in our empty soon-to-be home, directing contractors, measuring dimensions, and cleaning. Invariably, I would find three to four offending insects, some dead, some alive. I was revolted. Not only did I despise and somewhat fear these creatures, but our previous house never had one carapaced critter darken the door. For a moment, I had a twinge of misgiving about the house, about our move. In my head, I knew that this house would be a better fit for our family long-term, but I knew we would be giving up a brand-new construction home for one built sixty years before. And that choice would come with a new set of challenges and battles.

For weeks, we have lived with the roaches. Not too many of them – not an infestation. About one a day. Small and large, brown and black, dead and alive. My husband and I killed the ones we found alive, called the pest control company, comforted our distraught children. We lived in an uneasy truce – call it a live and let live ceasefire, with the roaches…until the moment it all changed.

“Mom! Dad!” our oldest calmly stated, walking into our room on a Saturday morning, “A roach just fell on me! From the air vent. I was just sitting on the couch playing Xbox and it fell on my shoulder.”

The previous day, we found a live roach on my daughter’s backpack hanging in the hall. In the middle of the day. In broad daylight. In the center of our home. Their insolence and audacity stunned me. Now, one of these creatures had the hubris to stage an actual attack on my child. This action could be taken as nothing other than a declaration of war.

We have been caulking every opening, spraying every baseboard. The pest control company was called in to fumigate the crawlspace and attic. Whatever small allowances had been granted these creatures for the past three months have been stripped away. This is a zero tolerance fight – one that I will have the patience and mental fortitude to win.

These days of quarantine have isolated many of us in our homes, fighting real battles of loneliness, impatience, anger, and fear. Many of us have seen these vices with stunning clarity in these past few weeks when our schedules are empty and our busyness has been quelled. Like roaches, we may have been able to engage in a live and let live ceasefire with these spiritual vermin, ignoring them in the press of “more important” deadlines and events. But may God grant us the clarity, in these times when our schedules are simpler, to realize the importance of a zero tolerance policy toward these sins…and call upon His power, His blood, to fumigate them.

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