“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:15
“A little thorn may cause much suffering. A little cloud may hide the sun. Little foxes spoil the vines; and little sins do mischief to the tender heart… The sea is made of drops; the rocks are made of grains: and the sea which divides thee from Christ may be filled with the drops of thy little sins… If thou wouldst live with Christ, and walk with Christ, and see Christ, and have fellowship with Christ, take heed of ‘the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes,’. Jesus invites you to go with Him and take them. He will, surely… take the foxes at once and easily. Go with Him to the hunting.” C.H. Spurgeon (1)
Now that good weather is upon us and I watch wild children run freely through wide fields after long months of winter, I wonder what it might be like to so enjoy running. (Of all things, don’t they know their lungs burn and their hips are going to pop out of joint?) Free of sin and unencumbered by burdens – what would that look like in my soul? A hundred daily sins that feel like a mountain to ever scale from which to see freedom.
The mountain of my pride, envy, despair, unbelief, forgetfulness of God, laziness, fear… I so want full freedom from them rightthisveryminutethankyou! And while, praise be to God, the freedom is as good as mine for Christ’s work on the cross, I will still be tempted to them all the days until I see His face. “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair,” says Martin Luther.
Foxes in vineyards, birds building nests in my hair, and the thousand tiny darts thrown at my soul from the wicked one or from my own sin-wrecked flesh. What are we to do about these nasty little pills that, when added up, wreck our communion with God?
First, I must believe the victory and freedom purchased for me by Christ. I cannot catch the foxes on my own, battle sin on my own, because those foxes and sin are all that I bring to the table. The final word is Christ defeating sin and death in the eternal, and also in my moment by moment existence.
Second, I have to name these sinful thoughts to God. The pang of pride when I feel overlooked and undervalued. The discontent when I look at what I have not and get crabby about it. The rub when my husband and children don’t fall in line with the hopes I have for our day off together. The fear and anxiety when I look on our future and fret because I don’t trust God with our days. The attempt to fill my soul by checking the fridge or phone again because I don’t believe God is really enough. The mindlessness of forgetting what God has done for me and does to hold my world together every moment of every day. The annoyance at the car in front of me driving through a roundabout (“You don’t have to fuss to get what you want Mom,” pipes up my five-year old in the backseat. Thank you, small child.)
Sometimes it means slowing the motor on the looped narrative that’s running through my head, to think about what I’m thinking. I can be shocked at how ugly it is to say my thoughts out loud. Like cockroaches from an overturned rock that scurry away from being exposed, my sinful thoughts lose their power and flee from the truth of Christ when they are called into the light. If I can’t quite put my finger on the thoughts because they are so nebulous, I ask the Spirit for help. He’s really good at His job.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24. Fair warning that those grievous ways are heinous when He searches us. But the way everlasting, isn’t it the best?
Third, this also may require repentance, an agreement with God when my thoughts miss the mark of what is true of Him. I must turn and run the opposite way that my mind has gone, receive His mercy and run away from crabbiness to joy in Him. Away from envy and to contentment in Him. Away from fear and to belief in Him.
Fourth, I must fight the sinful thoughts with what is true. It is urgent that we know the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, in order to do battle against spiritual foes and stand firm. Specific ways to do this from the wise and beautiful Ruth Chou Simons: “I must speak truth in the most mundane and dark corners of my life in order to speak it to the corners of the earth… Talk back to my fear, to anxieties, overwhelm, unresolved conflict, unknown circumstances… What must we preach to ourselves? The character of God, who we are in Christ, and His promises.” I have specific scripture in my arsenal when those familiar battles fly up again in my brain.
Lastly, to persevere. This is where the small grains of sand add up to massive monuments of wins. It requires vigilance over my soul to spot the foxes before they have a chance to spoil any vineyards; to keep a gate over what gets into my heart to influence it. To do this over and over and over all the days of my life. Some days it’s as fast as swatting flies. Other days we will find ourselves weary from the war, on our knees, seeking counsel, writing out our pleas to God, painstakingly repeating truth over and over until it wins.
One day I hope, with His help, to look back on these huge areas of sin and struggle like a vague old dead life, now living in the unspoiled blossoming grape trees of true and beautiful intimacy with God. “Jesus invites you to go with him and take them. He will, surely…take the foxes at once and easily. Go with him to the hunting.”
Spurgeon, C.H. Morning and Evening
Ruth Chou Simons, https://gracelaced.com/blogs/blog