White, furry body.
Pointy, pink nose.
Beady, black eyes.
Long, furless tail.
It was a rat alright. A rather large, white rat. So what was it doing sitting on a shopping cart outside the Dollar General store, calmly staring at me as if I were the one out of place?
When I first spotted the rat, it was scaling up the side of a shopping cart. Spotting me, it paused, staring solemnly at me as if daring me to take one of the carts parked outside the store entrance. We looked at each other for several long moments, the rat and I, no more than two feet separating us.
Normally, I am not a rodent person. Typically I run from rodents. However, I got the distinct impression this rat was not your normal, run-of-the-mill rodent. This rat was different.
Inside the store, I overheard several customers talking to the young clerk about the rat. Listening in, I discovered the rat had been inspecting the shopping carts out front for well over an hour. “Before that,” the cashier said, “the poor thing was investigating doors further down the strip mall.”
By this point, I had reached the counter to pay for my gallon of milk. Voicing my curious thoughts, I said, “But this is the only active store in the entire strip mall. Everything else is either closed down or doesn’t open until later in the day. Why, do you suppose, this rat is choosing to hang out by the one door where humans are making a steady stream in and out?”
No one had a good answer.
However, as I shared my rat story with my children over lunch, they had plenty of ideas on how the rat ended up in front of the store. Nathan suggested it might be a lost pet. Julia thought it ran away from a local pet store, but then Megan reminded us there were no pet stores anywhere close to the area of the strip mall. Imaginative Maddie enthralled us with a thrilling tale of how she figured the rat had been held captive by an evil snake owner who planned to feed him to a boa constrictor. Fortunately, the rat had made a dramatic escape during the night.
Even as we laughed over Maddie’s story, we realized we would never know the truth of how the rat came to be sitting on the shopping carts outside of the Dollar General. In fact, there was only one thing about this situation which was crystal clear:
The rat was definitely out of place.
For the next couple of days, I couldn’t get the out-of-place, white rat off my mind. My curiosity about how it had gotten there in the first place and whether or not it had managed to survive consumed a ridiculous amount of my time.
Yet the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that I should be like that rat. I should resemble one who is out of place, too.
You see, I’ve never paid much attention to the pigeons that stroll around the parking lot outside the Dollar General. In fact, I sort of expect to see them there, poking around as they look for bits of food. Because pigeons have a tendency to frequent city parking lots, there is nothing odd to find them in those situations. So while I notice the birds, their presence do not cause to me pause in wonder.
The rat, on the other had, was strangely out of place. Once I noticed it, I couldn’t seem to help myself from thinking further about its odd dilemma. I questioned its actions, and pondered its whereabouts. I found the rat a bit baffling, and a part of me wanted to know more.
As a Christ-follower, I need to remember this world is not my home. Christ calls us to be in the world but not of the world, as a traveler far from home. Still, there are many days when I feel discouraged. I’m trying to figure out how to live in this world, usually by attempting to squeeze myself into a place where I really don’t belong, a proverbial square peg trying to fit into the round hole.
Yet, because of my faith in Christ, I’m suppose to be different. My life should make others stop to ponder what exactly it is that makes me stand out. My job is not to make Christ more palatable to the rest of the world, but rather to be strange enough to cause others to stop and think and wonder more about who Christ is and what positive effect He might have on their life.
I’m sure I’ll never know why that unafraid white rat was hanging out by the Dollar General, though I wish I knew the story of how it got to be in such an out-of- place state. But I do know why I feel like a stranger in this world and why until the day I die I will always long to go to the place where I truly belong.
W is for the white rat who obviously didn’t belong outside the convenience store,
and that reminds me that I shouldn’t fit into the world either because the world is not my home.
For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven. ~Hebrews 13:14