Last November I began running on a beat up old treadmill in my garage for 4 days a week. As I spent an hour running my legs to the rhythm of the treadmill’s clangs, I noticed another sound in the background. It was similar to a scratching or clawing. Now I am usually a very curious person, but my curiosity failed me. I blame the treadmill.
At the end of November we pulled our Christmas tree out and found mouse droppings. . .a lot of them. So we bought two traps. They were the new confangled kind that sought to bait the mouse with food and then enclose them in a round container.
We set them, placed them in the garage, waited for a month and caught nothing. I assumed the mouse had died or moved on, though the scratching sound did not go away and the droppings increased.
In January my wife finally saw the mouse run across the floor. She insisted we do something about it, claiming there is a disease you can get from mouse droppings that infects you by breathing. Considering the majority of droppings were right beneath the treadmill, where I spent a half hour breathing hard every day, I decided to look into it.
So I researched it and found that %15-%20 of mice are infected with the hafta-virus. The hafta virus is especially sinister. It is an uncurable flu that can kill people if it gets into the lungs. The virus itself is killed by direct sunlight but still very lethal if inhaled. After reading about it, I panicked and bought the old school spring-load traps.
I set one with peanut butter one evening and left the garage. I came back five minutes later to find a mouse. “That was quick!” I exclaimed before I realized the mouse was still living. Its ear and the side of its head were caught in the crossbar but the rest of it was fine. It looked at me trembling and frightened and immobile.
“Oh, no, poor mouse,” I muttered. My daughter, who was standing behind me, repeated it. I stood there looking as equally terrified as the mouse and also immobile.
After ten seconds I knew what I had to do. I grabbed an old dusty broom and a plastic bag and sought to sweep the trap and the mouse into the bag. It didn’t work. The first time I moved the trap, the mouse pulled its ear free, spurting blood onto the garage floor. It shot like a lightning bolt underneath an old television stand. For a second I thought it had run clear through it and emerged into the maze of boxes on the other side.
I muttered, “nuts.” My daughter repeated it.
I turned to go inside when it occurred to me I should at least check under the television stand. So I carefully pulled it back and there was the mouse, on its side, breathing heavily with the trembling eyes.
I knew what I had to do but I didn’t like it. I lifted up the broom and brought it down swiftly to end the mouse’s life.
For the rest of the evening, my daughter repeated, “aw, poor mouse” over and over to remind me of what I had done.
The whole event brings into clear focus the true brokenness of creation. In Genesis there is a wonderful picture of all animals living together in harmony. In that world mice didn’t carry lethal viruses that could be spread by breathing the same air they do. At the same time, humans didn’t have boxes of junk sitting in dark garages that mice could chew up and destroy.
But now our world is less than that utopia. It is full of things like disease and death and boxes of junk. Still, the Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 8 that all creation is groaning while it waits for the children of God to be revealed. I think that includes mice. The hafta virus and the destroyed Christmas decorations and the disgusting smell are all signs of a groaning creation, waiting for redemption.
As I stood over that mouse and the trap that (let’s face it) is less than merciful when it works properly, I found myself groaning as well.
As I brought that broom down to mercifully end the life that I myself had all ready mutilated, I longed for a better world.
Poor mouse. Poor humans. Poor creation.
Come Lord Jesus.