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Unintended Consequences

By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor

The first time I saw it, it scared me to death. We were coming home in the evening, and the car headlights illuminated the red eyes of a large rat-like animal crossing the street into our front yard. Instead of a very fat rat, we decided it was a very round opossum. Of course, it is not unusual to see wildlife outside. Often there are squirrels and rabbits on the lawn.

It was only after I got inside the house, turned on the porch light, and opened the front door to call our cat Sherman that I actually screamed in terror. With the wide open door to my side, I stood face to face with the largest possum I had ever seen.  At last, I understood the mission of this possum. Now I understood why he was so round.  Each time we put fresh water and a bowl of food on the porch for Sherman, we were actually feeding the possum.

I remember my parents used to say that if you feed a stray cat or dog, it will stay.  Assuming that also applies to pet possums, we began only feeding Sherman inside the house. Without the Purina temptation, surely the possum would set up home in some other front yard. Not until a couple of weeks ago, did I discover where the possum had gone. To accommodate Sherman and allow him to come inside anytime, we leave the garage door partly open. The six inches allows the cat to escape into the safety of the garage.

You are right. The next day, after the garage door had been closed completely, we found boxes overturned and window blinds askew. It was as if some kind of wild animal had been loose in the garage throughout the night. Although, I have not seen it face to face again, I think the possum is in there. In an attempt to catch it, we have set a humane trap with a large bowl of cat food as bait. Last week we came home and discovered the cage had an empty bowl and one angry orange tabby cat trapped. So far, no possum has appeared. Of course, I am not spending much time in the garage these days.

Sometimes, good actions result in unintended consequences. My intention is simply to take care of my pet cat Sherman. Not even in my wildest imagination, would I ever have thought that I would end up with an overstuffed possum in the garage.

This month, our conference youth leaders are sponsoring a new youth event called Revolution.  It is intended to strengthen the spiritual lives of the youth across our state.  It may touch the hearts of some who will become future spiritual leaders in the S.C. Conference. Years from now, your church pastor or lay leader may remember how his or her heart was strangely warmed and the spirit of God stirred within them. This event might even result in youth and young adults filling our churches in the years to come.  Who knows what unexpected consequences might result from this one ministry event.

As we begin a new year, many of the things we do will have consequences. Some will be good and others will not. Generally what we do, we do with the best of intentions, and yet good intentions do not always produce the desired result. That is the reason we pray, plan and implement the ministry of the church with great care. There is too much at stake for us to be careless. From the earliest days, our founder John Wesley lived by three simple rules: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.

As I anticipate this New Year I have resolved to be open and sensitive to the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit so that my own life and ministry will be one of faithfulness. I invite you to join me in this journey.

Throughout these days of Christmastide and Epiphany, we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. It is amazing the difference a baby makes. Life is never the same again. Each new day has an unexpected joy. There are all sorts of unintended, unimagined consequences to the birth of this child, or maybe, the great good news is that these unintended consequences were God’s intention all along.

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