Sep 02, 2022 1703 Ellen Hogarty, USA

The Dead Mouse Parable

Sometimes the small things in life can teach us valuable lessons…

A friend recently shared an interesting story. She and her husband were driving on an uncomfortably warm afternoon and decided to turn on the air conditioning, which hadn’t been used all winter. Immediately, a horrible stench filled the car. It was so bad, my friend started gagging. She blurted to her husband, “Quick, turn it off! It smells like something died in here!” He turned off the AC and opened the windows to eliminate the horrible smell.

When they got home, her husband investigated. He started with the air filter, and sure enough, he found a dead mouse nestled inside. Because the mouse had died during the cold winter, there was no foul smell till the Spring thaw. My friend’s husband removed the mouse and its nest, and ran the air conditioning till the putrid smell dissipated.

Ways God Speaks

A story like this makes me think of parables. In the gospels, Jesus often used examples from everyday life to teach the people how to live and to reveal truths about Himself and the Father. Job 33:14 says, “God does speak, sometimes one way, sometimes another, but people do not pay attention to it.” I strive to be a person who pays attention to the Lord, so I make a habit of asking, “Lord, are you trying to teach me something through this? What’s the message here?”

As I reflected on the hidden rodent in my friends’ car and the stench it caused, I thought of how some things in our lives stay hidden, and then suddenly rear up and cause unexpected trouble. Unforgiveness or resentment are good examples. Those emotions, like the decaying rodent, often lie dormant in us without us taking notice. Then one day an emotional switch gets flipped, and the stench comes pouring out. Harboring resentment or unforgiveness or other negative emotions can have serious consequences. They fester and wreak havoc in our minds, our hearts, and in our relationships. Unless we deal with the source, they will cause great damage period.

What’s Inside?

So, how can we find out if there are hidden, stinky “rodents” in our hearts? An excellent method is that of Saint Ignatius of Loyola who advises that we pay attention to the inner movements in our souls, a method he calls the “discernment of spirits.” Ask yourself, “What agitates or unsettles me? What fills me with joy, peace, and contentment?” To discern “spirits” in our lives we first must acknowledge that there are spirits in our lives—good and bad. We have both an Advocate and an enemy. Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, inspires and guides us to wholeness and peace. The enemy of our souls, Satan, the accuser, is a liar and thief who wants to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Saint Ignatius recommends that we spend time each day in quiet reflection to recognize what is stirring inside us. Invite the Lord to help you reflect and review. “Am I anxious, calm, happy, ill at ease? What is causing these movements? Do I need to act… Forgive someone… Repent of something and go to confession? Do I need to stop complaining and be more grateful?” Paying attention, with God’s help, to these inner movements of the heart, will enable us to identify trouble areas that need attention, so they can’t blindside us at a future time.

My friends took action only after they realized there was something causing a stench. And by dealing quickly with the problem, they were able to enjoy clean, cool air in their car for the rest of the summer. If we take time each day to get quiet with the Lord and ask Him to reveal what might be “off” in our spirits, He will show us and teach us how to handle it. Then the fresh air of the Holy Spirit can waft through us, and bring joy and freedom to our lives and relationships.


Ellen Hogarty

Ellen Hogarty is a spiritual director, writer and full-time missionary with the Lord’s Ranch Community in New Mexico. She blogs at cacklescorner.com.

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