There are foxes in London.
Shortly after we moved here, when I first glimpsed one slinking down the street, I actually cooed, like we all do over a puppy. I know, I know… All of my London friends are shaking their heads at this silly Yankee but in my defense, although plenty of deer visited our house in Wisconsin, including an eight-pointer that engaged me in a staring contest (and won), I was not as familiar with foxes. So, I was a bit intrigued by the cunning little faces that often appeared at dusk.
During that same settling into London time when emotions were raw, one of the songs I listened to repeatedly was Audrey Assad’s Good to Me.
Here’s one of the lines:
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy.
This line floated into mind whenever I spotted a bushy red tail, still naive as to how these solitary creatures might be joy-thieves. Honestly, I felt a little sorry for them. So battered and scrawny looking (not quite like the above handsome Image by rottonara from Pixabay ) Always alone. They seemed harmless enough.
And then this happened:
And then it happened again.
Garbage disposals aren’t a thing here, so food waste goes in biodegradable bags which are collected on rubbish day. Unless a fox intercepts it and has a picnic in the middle of the night. Which happens. A lot.
Not only do the foxes manage to pick the latch to the bin, shred the bag, toss the eggshells all over, pick through what they want and have a food fight with whatever they reject, they then have the audacity to leave behind foul-smelling piles. As if to say, ha ha Loser, I won. (sidenote: I have a friend who has an even better – and therefore worse – story of a fox entering her house during the night, ransacking what he could find in the kitchen, and making an unwanted deposit on her sofa.)
Yes, foxes steal joy.
We thought we had ‘done enough’ to keep our sly thief away by securing the latch on the food bin. But the rascal kept getting in. Apparently, there’s an art to keeping the foxes out. Our neighbor showed us how to trap the food bin with the bigger wheelie bins. It takes more effort but so far that’s working. Fingers crossed.
Back to the foxes and vineyard line. What’s that about? The above song lyric is loosely based on Song of Solomon 2:15.
Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.
Look it up in context and you’ll see these rather obscure words were spoken at a wedding, sandwiched between ‘your face is lovely, and your voice is sweet’ and ‘My beloved is mine and I am his’. So why talk about foxes at a time like this?
I haven’t conducted an in-depth study but maybe because what is good, like a vineyard or a relationship, can be ruined by something bad, like a fox or destructive behavior. So be on guard.
Taken literally, a fox would eat up, trample on, and defecate on a place that is meant for sweet-smelling, fruit to flourish. Vineyard owners must root out foxes. Their livelihood depends on it. The fruit must be protected. And it’s best to catch those foxes when they’re little to minimize the damage.
As followers of Christ, we are called to bear fruit… to do good works that glorify our Father in heaven (Matt 5:16). We are not saved by the good that we do; we are saved so that we can do good. But something can steal our joy, our peace, our time, our patience, our fruit.
In a word, sin. Other people’s sin and our own. It’s easy to brush off our own sin, even attempt to laugh it away. Sin may look relatively harmless. Why make such a big deal of it? How archaic. How unenlightened.
But sin is a sly fox. It leads to destruction and death. Sin has always been the problem, and it’s very much the problem now. For you and for me, for our children and our neighbors.
I used to think foxes were harmless, now I know they are destructive. Foxes are on the prowl to devour. Foxes will not simply disappear, nor will they change their ways. We had to change our ways in order to prevent the destruction they caused.
I don’t hate foxes, (to be honest, I still find them fascinating) but they do make an apt comparison to sin:
Sin may seem harmless, but it destroys. Satan, the father of lies who can masquerade as “good”, is on the prowl to devour. Sin is real and it will not simply disappear. (But it won’t exist in heaven, hooray!) We have to rely on God, on his Holy Spirit, to change us and to teach us say no to sin as we:
Confess our sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Flee from sin. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11
Know and obey God’s precepts. I rejoice in following your statutes, as one rejoices in great riches. Psalm 119:14, (but really all of Psalm 119)
Fully trust in Jesus. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus for the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1
Throughout our lifetime, we will continue to sin. We will need to ask for forgiveness and we will need to forgive others. Resting and relying on God’s grace isn’t our license to coddle our sin, to take a sly fox and treat it as a pet.
As we head into Easter, maybe you’re more familiar with colored eggs and chocolate bunnies and less familiar with how Christ took care of our sin problem when he died and rose to life. Maybe you don’t know that he left to prepare a home for us that will be free from sin and pain. Why not read through the gospel of Luke and ask God to reveal himself to you?
It’s the best news ever. Death was conquered. The mess of our sin taken care of. Forgiveness offered. Maybe you don’t know, or have forgotten, that God’s story of redemption can include you.
Christian, seek him.
Doubter, seek him.
He is the only, ultimate answer to life’s mess, the slayer of our sins.
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