Police and workers in Madison Township, Ohio, made an interesting discovery Thursday: a twenty-five-year-old alligator was living in the basement of a house.
Police were called to the home after firefighters responding to a medical emergency observed the alligator penned in the basement. It turns out, the five-foot-long alligator was being kept as a pet. The owner did not have an exotic-animal permit as required by law so he surrendered the alligator, which will be taken to an animal sanctuary in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
This is a win for everyone: the owner, who won’t have to feed and beware of the pet; the police, who rescued it without harm to themselves; anyone who happens down into the basement; and, most of all, the alligator, who is trading a pen in a basement for his (or her) natural habitat.
The best way to clean your spiritual cellar
One obvious lesson is that, as Moses warned the Israelites, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). The owner apparently kept an illegal pet for twenty-five years, but a medical emergency led to its discovery. Sin you think is “secret” today will not be so one day.
A less obvious lesson is that we don’t always know what is in the “basement” of our lives unless we do an inspection. C. S. Lewis suggested in Mere Christianity: “Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.
“In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”
The best way to inspect your spiritual basement is to seek the help of the Holy Spirit. In this context, I highly recommend a discipline known as a “spiritual inventory.”
Take a piece of paper and pen, then get alone with God for thirty minutes or so. Ask the Spirit to bring to your mind anything in your life that displeases God, then write down what comes to your thoughts.
(The first time I did this, I began with sins I knew I needed to confess. But before long, sins began coming to my mind that I had no idea were in my life. It was like taking dictation.)
Give the Spirit time to point out everything you need to confess and write down very specifically what he reveals. Then confess these sins one by one, claiming God’s forgiving grace (1 John 1:9).
Now throw away the paper, burn it, or shred it. (The shredder in my home office works well for this purpose; I always appreciate the sense of destroying my confessed sins that it provides.)
The best way to keep your basement free of alligators is to do a regular spiritual inspection. Why not today?