On a particularly warm Sunday afternoon toward the end of January, my husband commented that we really needed to take down the wreath on our front door. We'd been talking about it for weeks, but we never seemed to have the right place to store it. So, it continued hanging on the door, the red and green deco mesh reflecting a Christmas that had long-since passed.
That Sunday evening, Robert had an elders-deacons-preachers meeting, so I went home by myself. I walked up to my door as I always do, took my keys from my purse, then unlocked the door. As I turned the deadbolt, I heard a faint rustling. When I dangled my keys free from the door, that was enough. Enough for what, you ask? Enough noise to startle the BAT that was living inside the wreath to emerge from his abode and scare me half to death.
I screamed, but stood still. The shock had nailed my feet to the ground. I watched as the bat flew out of the wreath and into the night sky, no doubt irritated that I'd interrupted him.
Robert called me on his way home and I told him about the incident. He asked me to beat on the door right before he got home, so that the bat wouldn't try to attack him when he came in. I did just as he'd asked, but apparently the bat had turned a bit more territorial this time around and stood his ground as my husband approached. Robert, aware that the bat had set up shop, was looking for the bat as he approached, and seeing the bat still inside the wreath, he came in the back door.
The next morning, I left out of the back door. I did not have any desire to see that bat. I would not even go close to where he was, even though by that time he'd left. We promptly removed the wreath that afternoon, not wanting to house any more bats on our front door.
It's a silly story, but I feel like we can learn a lot from it.
When we let sin hang out on our doorstep, it isn't long before it attacks us. God said to Cain in Genesis 3 that sin was at the door, desiring him. At first, sin can seem harmless. What does it matter if I leave my Christmas wreath up a few weeks after Christmas? It doesn't really matter. It doesn't look too Christmasy. What does it matter if I listen to that kind of music? It doesn't really matter. It isn't that bad. And so, day in and day out, you pass the wreath but you don't see it. You let yourself become acclimated to it, and before you know it, you don't even realize that it's almost February and your Christmas wreath is still on the door. You can listen to those words, day in and day out, and you don't realize that those vulgar words are penetrating into your heart.
One day, though, the wreath makes noise. There is a rustle, a stir, and out comes the bat. You're in an argument, you're frustrated, and the word slips out. Immediately you're filled with regret and shame. Why didn't I take the wreath down earlier? Why did I think it was okay to leave it up until February? Why did I think I could hear those words and not end up using them eventually?
Once you know that sin is there, you avoid it. You take every precaution to avoid it. You go through the back door even though it's inconvenient. You change the radio station when you hear the song, you throw out your CDs, and you change the playlists on your iPod. You don't want that word to slip out again.
Why do we wait until sin makes noise to take the sin our of our lives? Why don't we do what the apostle Paul commands us and "flee from sin" in the first place? Stay away from things that will separate you from God. Don't wait for the separation to take place before you realize it's wrong. Don't wait until you get drunk that first time to realize that you shouldn't have been drinking in the first place. Don't wait until you've gone "too far" with your girlfriend or boyfriend before you realize you shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place. Don't wait until you've been caught on that website to realize you shouldn't have visited it. Let us see sin for what sin really is. Let's not try to disguise it and pass it off like it has redeeming qualities. Sin is sin, and it camps out at our door and waits for us to just grow accustomed to it. That's when it gets it. We become too comfortable, to close of friends. Seek out the temptations in your life and remove them. Take your wreath down before something sets up in there for good.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8