I was rudely awakened the other night by the sound of Charlie, our six year old Border Terrier, whining and whimpering from his cage in the kitchen. Thinking he must have needed to go outside to relieve himself I stumbled downstairs, still half asleep, and opened the back door. Out he shot like a greyhound from the traps. Give him a minute, I thought, and then I could lock him up again and go back to bed myself.
How wrong I was. World War Three suddenly erupted outside with Charlie barking like a lunatic. I ran outside not knowing what to expect. Was it a burglar? Casper the Friendly Ghost? Dr. Who materialising out of thin air in his Tardis to do battle with a Dalek army?
Thankfully none of the above, given I was dressed in a scruffy t-shirt and pair of Manchester United pyjama bottoms. No instead I found our heroic hound pawing and barking furiously at something rather less frightening. Our nocturnal visitor was none other than a hapless hedgehog.
As I neared the pair I saw the hedgehog curled up in a tight ball in the middle of our rear yard while Charlie continued to notify anyone within a three mile radius of his discovery. Growing increasingly brave he then proceeded to pick our prickly friend up in his mouth and shake him furiously from side to side. This was becoming a duel to the death.
As the battle continued I had no other option but to grab our terrier by the scruff of his neck and attempt to pull him off Mr. H Hog. Charlie had other ideas though and hung on for dear life, determined to defend his territory at all costs. The harder he dug in, the more tightly the hedgehog hung in there. In the end it took a few firm smacks to Charlie’s flank by me to force him to release his grip and be dragged back inside.
I locked him back in his cage and made my way back to bed. As I turned the outside light off I took one last glance to find the hedgehog still resolutely refusing to budge. I hoped he had not been hurt but couldn’t think of anything else to do to help him. With heavy heart I retired for the second time that night.
The next morning he was gone. Vanished. Disappeared. With no sign that he had ever been there. No blood. No quills. Not a trace. Had it all been a dream? Charlie’s intensive patrolling of the yard and frenetic sniffing when later let outside suggested otherwise. Mr. Hedgehog had survived his sharp incisors and lived to fight another day. Or night in this case.
When attacked or threatened the automatic defence mechanism for hedgehogs is to curl into tight ball and contract muscles in their spines causing quills to shoot outwards protecting their head, feet and underbelly. It doesn’t attack and it doesn’t run as to to do so would be hopeless and invite disaster.
This survival strategy of doing nothing more often than not is effective. This strategy of ‘doing nothing’ is one often adopted in sport. Muhammad Ali famously defeated George Foreman in 1974 in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ by his rope-a-dope tactic of defending himself on the ropes and little else thus allowing his opponent to exhaust himself before launching a vicious counter-attack that won him the fight.
Likewise many a struggling team has had to adopt a ‘backs to the wall’ approach against opponents who have the upper hand. Sometimes you can do little else but just ‘tough it out’, ‘take it on the chin’ and wait for the storm to blow itself out. I have watched many teams defend like crazy for 95% of a match before a sole counter-attack snatches the victory for them.
In recent months it has felt like our family has been under the cosh on several fronts. Illness has hit several family members and we have also had to fight a number of other battles that have been physically and emotionally draining. And like the little hedgehog I met the other night we have had no other option but to curl up in a ball and hope we would come out the other side.
We have had to put our faith in God and trust him to bring us through the crisis. He has been our only defence. Throughout the Bible he is described in this protective language. He is our refuge, our fortress, our stronghold. And I believe it is no coincidence that when Paul refers to tbe armour of God in Ephesians Chapter 6 that he includes more defensive than offensive equipment.
So next time your back is against the wall and you feel overwhelmed stand firm in your faith. But instead of prickly quills instead take up the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. And trust God to deliver you lovingly to the other side.
Psalm 46:1 – ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’
What nocturnal creatures visit your garden at night?
Have you had to ‘curl up into a ball’ recently and ‘take it on the chin?’
When did God last rescue you from the jaws of defeat?