I am related by marriage to the “Squirrel Whisperer.” She is my wife’s great-aunt, and I have watched her tame rodents with her beguiling charm. Impossible, you say? I once thought so myself, until I saw it with my own eyes.
Aunt Dot, or Auntie as the family calls her, spends much of her summer in a cabin nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains where the squirrels run thicker than mud.
“Auntie has a pet squirrel,” my wife told me during one visit. She said this casually as if she were referring to a cat.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. Surely, I’d misunderstood. “Did you say a squirrel?”
“Yeah, it eats right from her hand.”
This I had to see.
Auntie, silver-haired and spry, stood on the deck of her cabin, peanuts in hand and called him, “Chht-chht-chht! Chht-chht-chht! Here, Squirrely! Here, Squirrely, Squirrely!”
I was convinced she’d lost her mind.
But then Squirrely popped his head out from the branch of tree. Maybe I was the one losing my mind. I watched in disbelief as Squirrely climbed to the ground, pranced right up to her and snatched a peanut from her hand. He wiggled his tail at her and skittered off.
I had never seen anything quite like it. Even when Auntie was gone for the day, Squirrely would hang out by her cabin waiting to greet her when she came home like a loyal golden retriever.
I tried to call Squirrely once myself, just to see how hard it was to get on his good side, but he would have nothing to do with me. We just didn’t have the relationship.
This summer, when I was down at the cabin, Auntie called Squirrely again to introduce him to my daughters. The squirrel came halfway down the tree, then got spooked and bolted.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She looked at me matter-of-factly and answered, “That’s not Squirrely.”
Squirrely knew her voice and she, apparently, knew his.
In the Bible, Jesus made a similar claim about His sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
I don’t know much about sheep, but some days the squirrel seems like a better metaphor for my spiritual life. I’m relationally skittish and find it hard to get close to people. I don’t trust easily. And like a squirrel, I have a tendency to hoard my stuff.
Yet, there is a voice that calls to me and, when I take time to listen, reassures me I have a friend, a friend who though very different from me, is someone I can trust. Someone who provides for me. Someone who, as mismatched as we may seem, wants to have a relationship with me.
If you think a retired lady and a squirrel make an odd couple, just imagine an infinite, selfless God hanging out with flawed, self-centered humans.
A good shepherd. A squirrel whisperer. Whatever you want to call Him, He’s calling your name today. As hard as it to believe, there is a God, who though totally beyond you, is, in fact, nuts about you.