Spring is my favorite season for hiking. The air is pleasantly cool. The wildflowers are at their peak, and the forest’s undergrowth has not yet grown up to hide the mosses and ferns. Already, my kids, father, and I have ventured out for numerous hikes to enjoy spring’s grandeur. Our Labrador gleefully traipses alongside us on each excursion.
At several locations we found the forest floor carpeted with wildflowers. At points, we literally waded through the blooms. Often Adi would sit among the flowers waiting as we snapped pictures or flipped through the pages of Peterson’s Wildflower field guide trying to identify a new find.
As beautiful as the flowers are there is a danger that lurks among their leaves- ticks. These parasitic critters, which range in size from a pin head to eraser top, carry diseases that threaten man and beast. In my area, there are several varieties we must be alert to- wood, deer, and lone star.
Knowing this, we take the proper precautions. For Adi, this means taking a monthly flea and tick pill. For us, this means wearing long pants and applying bug spray before heading out on a hike. We also conduct a post hike tick check. Adi gets a quick brush down before being loaded back into the truck, allowing me to locate any ticks crawling across her fur. We, on the other hand, change clothes and examine our skin upon arriving back at the house. The quicker a tick is located and properly removed the less chance there is of disease transfer.
During a recent study of First Peter, I realized my physical being isn’t the only thing threatened by ticks. 1 Peter 2:1 states,
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”1 Peter 2:1
This verse lists five parasites that threaten me spiritually. When they attach, they suck the love and peace of Christ from believers and threaten to impart the disease of hatred and bitterness. To identify any tick you need to know its characteristics. So, I turned to a dictionary to help understand and identify these spiritual ticks. I learned that
Malice is a spirit of revenge and extreme hatred of the heart.
Deceit is false-beliefs and mis-leadings.
Hypocrisy is the false appearance of virtue.
Envy is discontentment caused by others success.
Slander is a false tale or report maliciously uttered with intent to harm another.
Like physical ticks that inhabit the beautiful vegetation of the woods, fields, or backyard, these spiritual ticks can be tucked into the lovely landscape of entertainment, religion, education, or movements (Colossians 2:8). I must handle them much in the same way I do physical ticks. My first step is to take the proper precautions. I can repel the ticks by coating my heart and mind with Biblical truth (Psalm 1). That said, ticks are persistent critters. They will search for weak points in your protective barrier, which leads to the next step. I must regularly examine my heart and mind. The Holy Spirit will reveal any ticks that are crawling nearby or any ticks that have successfully latched on (Psalm 139: 23-24). In turn, I am instructed to “rid” myself of them (1 Peter 2:1). With a crawling one, I can pluck it up and properly dispose of it (James 4:7). With an attached tick, I must use the only tool that will effectively remove it – a humble prayer acknowledging its presence and asking Jesus to extract it in its entirety (1 John 1:9).
And so, I end with an encouragement to prayerfully examine yourself for any spiritual ticks that may be crawling nearby or have attached themselves to you.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith….”1 Peter 5:8-9
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Post script: Pictured from top to bottom Adi sitting among bluebells and white trillium, Christmas Fern fiddleheads, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Virginia Bluebell, Yellow Trout Lily, Red Trillium, Lone Star tick, and cushion moss,