Chicken Coops and Racing the Devil
This morning, as I walked into work, I could smell a mix of the spring air and freshly laid mulch. For some reason the odor took me back to the days when I lived in a rented farm house as a child. I was about 8 or 9 years old when we got some chickens to keep the coop occupied (I couldn’t figure out any other purpose for having them stupid birds).
Chicken coops have a distinctive smell to them. You can never really get away from the memory of the aroma. Like ghosts in a castle, the odor wafts in from time-to-time as a reminder of days gone by.
This morning’s jog of the memory reminded me of living on that farm and how I would race the devil. You are probably wondering what in the world that means. As my grandmother would say, “Hold your britches on, I’m agettin’ to it”.
I am the second born of 4 boys. The oldest is 10 1/2 months older than I, the second is a 1 1/2 years younger than I, and the baby is 3 1/2 years younger than I. Yes, that’s less than 4 1/2 years spread between the oldest and the youngest. We did most things together but I was the competitive one. That competitive streak sometimes caused me to be adventuring by myself because the others had either gotten fed up with me or just didn’t care what I was up to at the moment.
When those times happened, I had an internal game that I would play. Not against myself but against the devil. If I was hitting a ball, climbing a tree, or scaling the barn rafters, I had to have some way to motivate myself to do it faster and better. So I would set an internal clock for how fast I could do the activity and I would wager the devil that I could do whatever it was that I was doing before that internal clock went off. When you are wagering the devil there is only one stake that he is interested in and that is your soul.
In my mind’s eye, I can see that 8 year old boy running like a mad man after a ball that had rolled into the corn field. The passerby may wonder what would motivate that little kid to chase so hard after that ball since he was the only one in the yard but what they didn’t see was the devil that was hot on his heels.
I am grown up now and I haven’t played that game since those days on the farm. In fact, I had forgotten about them until the aroma of chicken coop hit my senses this morning. But here is the thing, I notice that I am still racing the devil. He may not be the red, pitch-fork wielding imp hot on my heels that I pictured as a child but he is still there chasing behind.
The stakes have changed. Its no longer my soul he is after because that belongs to Christ and He isn’t into giving those things away. Now, he is after my time, my energy, my loves and passions. He is after the things that bring me joy and he wants to put things in front of me to stumble over as I run the race like Paul described so many years ago.
How about you, do you find yourself racing the devil? Who is winning?