A hamster, basement steps and an object lesson about love
Who knew that the sound of hard plastic smacking on wooden steps could be so painful? So heartbreaking with each echoing thwack … especially after my 9-year-old daughter screamed out in agony, helpless to change what was happening.
It started as any normal morning, getting ready for school, work and a day’s worth of various errands. My daughter wanted to take a few minutes with her newest pet – a little hamster she named Peanut and with which she so quickly fell in love.
She wanted to give Peanut some exercise, so she put him in his blue translucent plastic ball, which he uses to roll around the house in full exploration mode. It is amazing how much ground a determined hamster can cover.
Except I didn’t know he was motoring around in his ball and I left the basement door open without thinking. What a massive mistake, accentuated by the little hamster bouncing, step-by-step into the darkness below.
My daughter was closest to the incident, and once she realized what was happening, screamed at the top of her lungs: “NOOOO. PEANUT!” I’ll never be able to forget that phrase. You could hear her heart breaking in those two little words.
She saw his ball bounce and could not do anything at that point to stop it. Halfway down, the plastic cover came open and Peanut was ejected – flying through the air and landing on his back on the very last step. There he laid, motionless.
My wife picked Peanut up and started stroking him. She feared the worst, too, but tried to console our daughter – saying he was probably in shock. Neither of us expected him to make it.
Miraculously, with a little comforting and a lot of praying, Peanut woke up and started to move around. He regained full active hamster status and all was right in the Zaktansky home.
Of course, there were lessons to be learned from the situation, first and foremost to be more careful with the basement door.
But the lasting image for me – or moreso the lasting sound clip that I just couldn’t get out of my head – was my daughter’s gutwrenching scream. The pure, innocent horror of her beloved pet bouncing its way into oblivion – and then her seeing Peanut airborne and ultimately laying lifeless on his back.
There was a sense of true hopelessness, and for some reason, an unexpected object lesson popped into my mind.
Basically, the question I kept coming back to – was this how God feels when we sin? When we make decisions that ultimately cause us to fall from grace, one hard wooden step at a time?
Does God at that point feel helpless? Does He cry out in disappointment? He can only take us so far … we are left to make sure we follow His command the rest of the way.
There are references in the Bible of God’s response to our sin. He grieves. He’s disappointed. He lays out a safe path and we all continue to find our way to the open basement doors of life.
So, does God cry out at those moments? I believe He does. As I get older, more mature (at least I’d like to think I’m more mature) and my relationship with God expands, I sincerely do think He’s that invested in me. In each of us.
It comes back to us on whether or not we want to wander around aimlessly like a hamster in a plastic ball, oblivious of the impending dangers – or to embrace God and the security of His everlasting love.