Desperate Bandits

Last weekend, our family embarked on a camping adventure together. I am labeling it an “adventure,” because we chose to camp on Cumberland Island, a National Park in Georgia that can only be reached by ferry. Taking enough supplies and food for two adults and four boys onto an island to camp for 3 days in the heat of summer is definitely the epitome of adventure.

Cumberland Island is a wilderness full of beauty and nature. The beaches are virtually deserted. Wildlife is abundant! Wild horses and deer roam the island. Egrets and herons can be seen walking through the marshlands. Sea turtles nest along the beaches. It really is picturesque.

Unfortunately, some of the wildlife is a little more interactive. Wild raccoons also roam the island and make themselves at home in the campground, waiting for any morsel of food to claim. We were visited by our first raccoon two hours into the trip. We heard rustling in the bushes and saw beady eyes looking at us, as he sneaked around our campsite, checking out our wares. We put most of our food into a latched food box provided for the very purpose of keeping food safe from raccoons. We hung our trash from a tall pole, and tied up our cooler with bungee cords. We were prepared.

The second day, we discovered that the raccoons could climb poles. Our trash was torn open from the bottom. Later that afternoon, we found that a bag of food inside the food box had been torn open through the wire mesh holes on the outside of the box. I found pieces of shredded bags and oatmeal cookie crumbs all over the ground. We adapted and started putting all of our food as close to the middle of the box as possible. We also started putting our trash inside the box to to keep it safe.

One night, as we got ready for bed, I peeked out of our tent and saw a raccoon digging in our fire pit…which was still aflame. He was managing to pull out charred scraps of food we had thrown into the fire after dinner. In order to do this, he was sticking his paws into the fire to pull out salvageable scraps. Talk about desperate!

Caught red handed!

No wonder raccoons are called bandits! They will not stop at anything to get what they want. Even when it seems desperate. Even when their objective is a burned scrap of food.

But maybe humans aren’t so different. We have needs too, and if we can’t get our needs met in direct and healthy ways we often find more desperate means to get them met instead. Usually, in the United States, we don’t have to work so hard for food, but we may find ourselves desperate in other ways.

Connection: When we don’t have healthy, caring relationships, we will find other ways to get the need for connection met: toxic relationships, gangs, social media, online gaming, codependency, pornography….the list could go on and on.

Recognition: We all have a desire to be affirmed, validated, and recognized for who we are and what we contribute. When we don’t receive this feedback from those we love and respect, we might seek it in other ways: social media, an unhealthy drive for success and perfection, seeking out inappropriate attention from the opposite sex, workaholism, etc.

Security: All of us have a built in desire for both physical and emotional security. When we feel this sense of security is threatened in some way, we can put too much emphasis on things that will seemingly provide for us: a good job and benefits, a large savings accounts, great health or life insurance, the perfect relationship, etc.

There are so many areas where this could apply. Desperation causes us to make choices we would not make under other circumstances, and it’s never a fun place to be. It’s not fun for raccoons, who burn their paws to earn a charred morsel, and it’s certainly not enjoyable for humans who were given a God-ordained soul and an innate need for connection.

Pause: Take a deep breath and find a comfortable place to sit. Think about a time in your life that you may have felt desperate to have a need met in your life. How did you go about trying to meet that need? What are other, more healthy ways that you could have gone about it?

Renew: Think about, journal, and pray about how the Lord has provided for you in your life. How has he provided for your relationship and security needs?

Next: Beginning to make healthier choices means becoming more aware of our own needs and tendencies. Start paying attention to your own needs and work on finding ways of communicating those needs to others in your close circles of relationships.

May we not settle for scraps, when God has designed us for fellowship with his saints and with His Spirit!

Pause, Renew, Next!

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