Without squirming, I can examine and kill, if needed, most North American spiders. I can watch ants with my girls with an equal amount of fascination. I could eat bug snacks found in other countries. So I was surprised when my Master Gardening class on pests gave me a bad dream that I still remember years later (and I never remember dreams).
That day in class, members were discussing the horrors of the Indian meal moths. I’d never heard of them. Apparently they could come into your house on grain (bulk rice was a popular culprit). And once they came, they were almost impossible to get rid of. Throwing away every grain, disinfecting every nook and cranny of cabinets was required. And the thought of all those bugs in my food, it made me squirm.
That night I dreamed about the moths. There were hundreds of them, flying all around the kitchen. I would clean one cabinet, and those moths would move back in as soon as I finished. In real life, insects rarely make me squirm, so the extent to which this dream bothered me was weird.
Five months later, in the fall, I was in the kitchen making cornbread. My pantry was stocked full of at least ten different kinds of flours to accommodate my daughter’s gluten-free diet. Most of the flours were kept in large, glass storage jars. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see movement in a jar of corn flour. A small, brown moth, was wriggling its way to the top. Remembering the class and the dream, I killed the moth and stuck the jar in the microwave where I knew the radiation would kill any remaining eggs or larva in the flour.
When the following spring rolled around, the moths came out in full force. I searched my cabinets, found a web-infected bag of dry beans and thought the problem was solved. It wasn’t. I cleaned and searched the pantry with the flours next, switching the flours to new containers (moths can climb through the spirals of jar lids). Soon there were almost a dozen of the moth larva clinging to the ceiling each morning. I would stand on a stool and kill each one. I bought natural pest traps where the moths stick to the paper. There were dozens of moths on that paper, but dozens more flying around my kitchen, and dining room and living room. My mom came and we cleaned out a few more cupboards. We found an infested bags of nuts, but that was all. Now I was killing larva and squashing cocoons in the corners of the ceiling.
I called around, there really wasn’t any safe way to get rid of moths except cleaning. I couldn’t find their main home. When winter came, they disappeared. I was temporarily joyful. There were even more of them that spring. I took every flour jar, every cereal box, every cracker box and either stored it in the freezer. The larva and cocoons disappeared and the numbers gradually went down. I brought nothing out the freezer for 3 months. I found surprising infestations in places like chili powder and cumin. I replaced almost all my spices. The numbers continued to go down. Eventually, I quit fighting. I didn’t know what else to do. If the girls or I saw a month. We killed it. But killing one or two a day was a daily part of life.
Winter hit. The moths were gone again. That January we put unfinished wood floors in our kitchen. Because of the sanding involved, we emptied every cabinet. It was shocking to me how many dead moths were everywhere. Cabinets that only contained measuring cups, clean pie and cake pans had dozens of dead moths in it. I had never checked in there. I bleached and wiped down every cabinet. This spring, no more moths. I’ve changed the way I store cereal and grains. I have a new habit of wiping clean the lid of all flour containers before putting it back on.
Sometime during the two years of moths, God made it clear to me that the dream and experience was an analogy for sin. Throwing away one infested thing will rarely stop a habitual sin. A complete emptying of our hearts and habits is required. Perhaps the bleach is the accountability of friends. So moms, when struggle with a sin like overspending, overeating, gossiping, a critical heart, or whatever it is- confessing isn’t enough. We are in a battle with an enemy that lurks in unexpected places, with multiple hideouts. Sin cannot be attacked half way. And while I am applying this lesson to my own life, it has given me perspective to share with my girls. God doesn’t move toward holy in an instant. It’s process. One that involves frustration and failures along the way. One that gives us opporunity to show our girls grace.