(Recently I have been looking through files of rough drafts written in the jungle. This post is based on events of 2017).
It was a peaceful night in the jungle. The generator had been turned off for almost an hour and all of the village’s human inhabitants had gone to bed. Thousands of insects and birds filled the sultry air with their voices, however, composing a lullaby that somehow seemed soothing despite the almost startling blend of exotic tones, rhythms and melodies.
I was almost asleep, in that delightful zone where the last contemplations of the day begin to merge with the first dreams of the night.
As suddenly as a teacup breaks when dropped on the floor, all sense of calm was shattered by a splat on my cheek. I cried out and jerked upright, knowing immediately that such a slimy sensation could only be one thing…a tree frog!
Now, you need to know that I am normally a very tolerant and welcoming human being. During the first months in my little house in the jungle, I thought tree frogs were rather cute. Their sticky toes, skillfully and wonderfully made by our Creator, enable them to perform impressive athletic feats.
I felt absolutely horrible the morning I found a bloated frog, belly up in the pot of water which I had thoughtlessly left uncovered, while it was still at boiling point, right before bed the previous night.
But jumping out of the darkness onto my face was clearly a declaration of war. Tree frogs against human. All feelings of acceptance and empathy towards tree frogs disappeared as fast as fish and manioc root at a village gathering. What options were there?
- Leave the jungle and let the tree frogs have my house, hoping they would learn the language and teach my friends about Jesus.
- Live in fear, always wondering what the frogs’ next devious plan would be.
- Let the frogs know that since they had declared war, I was ready to fight!
Option #3 seemed like the best choice.
Defensive strategy: sleep with a mosquito net every single night, 12 months of the year, even during seasons when there were no mosquitos.
Offensive strategy: every time a tree frog was seen jumping around, locate and grab it.
Trying not to cringe at the slimy sensation in my hand, I would then throw it as far as possible out the back door. The problem was, although I became an expert frog-grabber, I can’t throw very far. To all future missionaries out there, here is a pro tip. Play baseball every chance you get, endeavoring to become a great pitcher so you will be able to throw frogs so far from your house that they can’t find it again.
With my substandard pitching skills, however, I could imagine the frogs gleefully hopping back, entering the house through the thatch roof, and jumping around inside with huge froggie grins, their chirps declaring, “I’m back! You can’t throw far enough to keep me out!” And each time I caught one of those little guys, I wondered, somewhat disheartened, how many times I had caught him before.
One morning, I came back to the desk after grabbing a drink of water, because one needs to be well hydrated to practice complex parts of speech such as dynamic auxiliaries. Picking up my pencil to attempt to write a grammatically correct sentence expressing my desire for my mom and family to be well, my pinkie smushed onto something slimy. Sniffing the brown streak on the paper and my finger confirmed that it was tree frog poop…the enemy was attacking on another front.
So I left the desk to wash my hands, without having written even one word. Then I had to recopy the four previously-written sentences onto a new page, so that I could throw out the smelly one. See how annoying tree frogs can be?
Earlier that same week, I tasted something really strange in one bite of my granola…a sharp pungent taste that does not match any of the ingredients in my recipe. Even though I only left the bowl unattended and uncovered for one minute, is it possible that something dropped in? Yuck. I’ll never know for sure, but am still wondering if that was a sneak assault by the enemy.
The most frustrating part of dealing with tree frogs is that it never ends. Although there are never as many frogs in the jungle as there were in Egypt during the second plague, there are a lot of them there, especially during rainy season. Countless times, I have heard the unwelcome sound of froggie feet sticking to one surface, then another, then another, causing me to to stop studying or reading, or even get out of bed to go deal with the intruder.
It is an ongoing battle, one little frog at a time, one interrupted task after another, day after day.
Are you getting the point? In the jungle, days can start with tree frogs. Days can end with tree frogs. Small chunks of time can be wasted by dealing with tree frogs, decreasing productivity and happiness (mine, not theirs). Tree frogs are smelly and unsanitary. They can trigger feelings of grumpiness or frustration or helplessness.
There are “tree frogs” in life, as well. These aren’t major crises or real enemies, but small ongoing problems. Sometimes we allow these annoyances to distract us, decrease our productivity and steal our joy. We may end up wasting more time or emotional energy than necessary in dealing with these “tree frogs”, diminishing our focus on what is truly important in life.
Are you plagued by any “tree frogs” right now? How should we handle the “tree frogs” in our lives?
This is entirely dependent on what form the “tree frogs” take in your specific situation, but here are a few ideas. Hopefully one of these strategies works for you. Please take these suggestions with a grain of salt and use your own common sense.
- Breathe deeply. Pray.
- Throw salt on them.
- Take pictures.
- Adopt them as pets.
- Sing to them.
- Laugh and continue with business as usual.
- Watch them jump around, or just jump around with them.
- Ignore them and stay on task.
- Ask them to stop distracting you and help you work toward your goals.
- Sing to them.
- Swallow them whole and regurgitate them as a “magic trick” to entertain your friends.
- Wash your hands (with soap) after touching them.