Thursday, August 17, 2017

Matapollo

They called it “Matapollo” (chicken killer) and I had the opportunity to make its acquaintance in the garden behind the big house just below where I was living just outside of Medellín, Colombia. I didn’t see the caterpillar. I was admiring the flowers and reached out to touch one and brushed against the fuzzy black and yellow critter. The sting was sudden and sharp.

In my ignorance, I had no idea until later what was going on in my body. The caterpillar had stung me on my little finger. I could feel the sensation as the poison moved through my hand up along my arm. But it wasn’t until it reached my shoulder that the pain began. It wasn’t pain from the venom. It was coming from a different direction, from across my chest—like an army heading for a confrontation with another army.

Later, when one of our missionaries, a nurse, had returned to the property, I described to her what had happened. She asked how long it had been since I had been stung. By then several hours had passed. She smiled and said: “Well, if you’re not dead by now, you aren’t going to die.” I didn’t really take her seriously until I heard from our mayordomo (foreman) about the chicken killer business.

I can’t guarantee the accuracy of my information on the caterpillar (or that the photo is of the right variety of caterpiller) except that to the locals, the little beastie had a bad reputation—hence the title of “chicken killer.” From what I could discover on Google, that caterpillar picks up a toxin from the plants on which it feeds. The toxins don’t hurt the caterpillar but are lethal to its enemies. The sensation I felt was the poison making its way through my system to my heart. The pain across my chest into my shoulder was caused by my antibodies rushing to the rescue; my own personal army heading out to meet the enemy that threatened me. If I hadn’t had the antibodies, I might have been in very big trouble.

Every day we are exposed to spiritual toxins, poisons that threaten to do us damage. Perhaps their impact is not mortal, but they are always dangerous. Sometimes the venom comes from outside, a world and its system that waits to contaminate us if we brush too close to it. At times, the poison comes from inside—our own fears and failures, the bitterness we harbor, the unresolved conflict, and lack of forgiveness. Slowly but surely, it makes its way, intent on shriveling our hearts, on killing our desire for God, on crippling our growth toward the righteousness that God as declared is ours in Christ.

When I was bitten, my antibodies automatically leapt into action. I didn’t command them—I was unaware of their existence until I needed them.  Antibodies are part our immune system and need to be encouraged—a healthy body promoted by a healthy lifestyle helps to build up the immune system so that it can face emergencies. A compromised immune system can mean trouble when illness or danger threatens.

In the spiritual realm, the good news is that God has also given believers, in His Holy Spirit, the antibody to fight off the invaders. Without Him we have no immune system, no protection against our own natures or against the poisons of the world around us. We are told in Galatians 5:16, 17 (NIV): “…live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They ware in conflict with each other…” The war is on, the battle to control the heart.

By living according to the Spirit of God, we allow Him to produce in us a healthy immune system, healthy antibodies that protect us from the foreign invaders, the toxins that threaten us from outside and from inside. Paul describes the product of our cooperation with the Spirit this way: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5:22, 23, NIV).

My little caterpillar was only defending itself. I can’t blame it for that. But you can be sure that after my little adventure, I was much more careful where I put my hands. When it comes to the influences of the world and of my own sinful nature, I need to be even more careful. Their intent is purely evil, malevolent. So I need to walk in the Spirit, spend time with the Lord and in His Word, taking care of my immune system so that I am ready for the enemy when he attacks. It’s a matter of guarding the heart.

 

Lynda is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English),  Lynda blogs Lynda’s Grain of Sand, maintains her own website Northern Breezes , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.

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