muskrat push ups

Ever feel stuck?

“Stop looking backward! Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. I have a plan for change—it’s bursting out!

Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a new road through the world, a new river in the desert, a place to recover and be sheltered.”     (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Feel trapped in the past? Ever feel stuck in a pattern? Perhaps like the energy is being pulled from you? Ever get weary and weak with each day? Ever feel like the whole world is draining you, not recharging you? As people of faith, we all know we need to be thankful, energized people. But sometimes being full of life requires a break, a reset, a place to recover and be sheltered. Let me give you an example, adapted from Gayle Boss’ book, All Creation Waits:

A muskrat seems a strange creature to admire. Their life is full of swimming and eating and eating and swimming. Every shoot or root it finds, it consumes, to pack away as many calories as possible and live off fat reserves when the winter comes. When ice seals up the pond, many of the animals hibernate. But the muskrat is no napper. He swims all winter, moving under the ice of the frozen pond. By God’s design, in the winter—when things slow down—his body chemistry recalibrates, enabling his blood and  muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. His double-layered fur coat not only traps an insulating air pocket next to his skin, but it holds extra oxygen-rich blood reserves, so he is able to seldom surface. As well designed as he is for this, the icy water still rapidly saps his heat and strength. He becomes weak. Where can he rest? The pond is frozen solid from shore to shore, and there is no easy way up to new air. From the outside, the muskrat seems trapped—even dying.

muskrat pushup

But God knows best. In his design of the muskrat, he has trained him to build a small bump in the ice, called a “push-up.” From beneath the ice the muskrat has built a tiny refuge by pushing sticks and stalks up through cracks in the ice into a heap, a mound. At the point of exhaustion, he pushes his body up into the mounded shelter, shakes his fur dry and shivers to raise his body temperature in this dark bump under the snow. He allows others to join him—even non-kin—for the precious extra heat of a group huddle. It’s a little breathing room, this heap of sticks on the pond ice. He builds a few push-up around the pond. Retreating to his dark rooms to rest and breathe—sometimes alone, often with others—this is how he survives the months of cold. Warmed, invigorated there, with a flick of his tail he dives sleek and quick to the very bottom, where fresh food always grows.

I love this image, but it does ask us to be honest. Have we created a “push-up” place in our life, where we can get warm and rest? Life is limited now, and the coffee shop is closed. Church is only on TV. Friends and loved ones seem forever distant. The world seems locked in a long winter, even with springtime outside.

How do we recharge our spiritual lives?

We can find a “push-up”—a comfortable chair where we can wrap up in that cozy blanket and simply reflect on God’s goodness? Or a clear table in a sunny place where the Bible can be opened for a few minutes? We can crawl into a warm bed a bit early to think and pray and say, “Thanks, Lord.” Or call an old friend to chat for a minute with a cup of tea. A mini-sabbath rest.

A muskrat push-up.

It might be a good habit to develop.109728469.2MHCOLhQ.muskratpushuplarose1iii095

Help us, Lord Jesus, help us learn new and spiritually healthy habits. Amen.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

mary holland edited
Photo by Mary Holland,

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