Caught in the Trap
It was 2004, and I was at my favorite place on earth: Mema’s house. Here, there were endless cousins to play with and lots of shag carpet to lose small toys in and bottomless glasses of sweet tea to drink. I loved it here—except on that one summer day.
There was this mouse trap that had always existed in the room where we stayed. For years, it was in the corner of the room, just hanging out—and mouseless. It captivated me. The craziest thing was that it had a big yellow/orange block of cheese on it. It looked like it was cut off a block of Velveeta, which now makes me think hard about that rectangular block of cheese that somehow lives on a grocery aisle or pantry shelf without needing refrigeration. Someone please tell me how that works and why we eat it so often in the South.
Anyway, the mouse trap cheese always enthralled me. I just wanted to know if it was real. And one day, I decided to just figure it out. I touched the cheese . . . And, of course, my finger got caught in the mouse trap.
Considering this same contraption murders small animals, it didn’t feel great on my right ring finger. But what also didn’t feel great was the damage to my pride done by my childhood bully: my sister. “Olivia, you have the mind of a mouse.” Sis wasn’t totally wrong, though I still have some emotional damage and also that finger has never looked the same.
I think about this mouse trap situation whenever I eat cheese, so daily, but also whenever I think hard about temptation. So, usually, after I have already acted on some form of temptation, and then am getting convicted about it.
“I just want to see if the cheese is real” turns into “I really need to tell someone the news about this friend” (gossip). “I just need one more sweater tank” turns into “I am not content with my life, and I need more things” (materialism). “Grant I’m going to buy this sweater tank for a mere $45” turns into a flat-out lie. It was $65. This is a great test to see if he reads these. Grant, if you see this, I am sorry, but confession is powerful, so we can just go ahead and move on.
Anyway—temptation is real. Just because your temptations aren’t taking form in a serious drug habit or a sexual escapade with a married man or an embezzlement scheme does not mean that whatever is tempting you isn’t detrimental. That little bit of gossip sure does end up in hurt feelings and hurt friendships. That idolatry of materialism sure does make you miss out on all that God has provided you and sure does keep you from enjoying the present. And that little white lie to your husband can lead to a lot of other issues. We’re all tempted. What changes is when we decide to act on it.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
We have a way out. Sometimes I find myself convicted before the sentence even rolls off my tongue, but I just say it anyway. Or judge anyway. Or "share the news about so and so" anyway. It doesn't have to be like this. Temptations arrive from every angle and in so many forms, but God provides us with a ladder to something better.
The poet John Dryden said, "Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare." It would have been nice to hear these words prior to 2004 as my finger literally struggled in the snare, but this still applies today. That bait presents itself in different ways for different people: an ad for a dress you can’t afford but decide to buy anyway, a word on your tongue that shouldn’t come out of your mouth but does anyway, that last margarita that you really don't need . . . Maybe resisting the bait looks like putting your phone away or logging out of Amazon or not feeling like you HAVE to share some hot gossip. Maybe that looks like seeking healing from a sinful habit. Maybe that looks like asking for accountability.
However you decide to resist the bait today, know that you, your pride, and perhaps your right index finger will be glad you did. Also, there’s a reason God tells us what is better. This doesn’t mean a religious life full of rules and boxes; it means trusting in a Creator who knows how fun is best experienced. And let me just tell you that a finger stuck in a mousetrap isn’t it.