[Originally published as Freeing the Captives: A Stuck Muskrat]
He was stuck tight in the ring of a chain-link fence. Even with Kevlar-lined leather gloves, I feared a piercing bite from those long, sharp, bark-shredding, rodent incisors. How could I pull this plump Muskrat out of his predicament without getting bit? Although my motive was to free him, there was nothing I could do to convince him that I meant him no harm.
Liberating this furry reddish-brown muskrat from his plight reminded me of the complexity of sharing the chain-breaking freedom in Jesus Christ.
In our love, we wish to free others from the constricting grip of sin. But as we preach the full gospel, which includes not only Christ’s love and redemption, but also the need for repentance of sin, our listeners may misinterpret our motives and aren’t always sure we mean them no harm. Yet freeing others is a calling motivated by love, as is my mission to free this muskrat.
As rodents go, Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) are bigger than a rat, but smaller than a beaver. With their thick, double-layer of fur, they weigh in at a portly 1 to 4 pounds; just the right size to barely pass through, or, as in this case, get stuck in a chain-link fence!
This guy was stuck in a fence surrounding a water retention pond. Preferring to burrow their homes in the banks of ponds and streams, muskrats have taken advantage of these man-made flood controlling constructions. My chubby muskrat must have gotten himself lodged when returning from grazing on the other side of the fence… where the grass is always greener!
Even we humans, the “crown of creation” and supposed most intelligent creatures, can be lured into captivity when we are “drawn away by our own lusts, and enticed” (James 1:14). We too fall captive to “the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side” mentality and chase fleeting fantasies into restricted areas that leave us trapped and in a helpless struggle.
We inevitably need someone to set us free.
As I approached to free this marooned muskrat, I could see his long, bald, vertically-flattened tail and backside trapped fast in the fence. He had given up on the struggle. Reducing the fence’s grip with the aid of bolt cutters, I was able to pull the exhausted critter free without much of a fight.
My now liberated muskrat didn’t immediately run off in freedom. His long exertion had drained his energy and he retreated briefly to recover under a nearby log. He eventually caught his breath, sensed his freedom, and scurried off towards a patch of concealing leaf litter near the water’s edge.
While they may not immediately embrace freedom, sharing God’s love and the truth of the freeing power of the blood of Jesus Christ does not return void. It will loosen the blinding grip of sin upon the human heart and free them to make a decision.
We may have a sense of frustration when some don’t immediately accept Christ, but we never know what will happen down the road. It is still our calling to preach the liberating gospel. As long as there is life there is a chance to decide for Christ. The fruit of our evangelistic efforts may not be immediate, but we never know what may take place.
In my case, it was a full 12 months from when I first heard a true evangelistic witness to when I surrendered and received Christ.