It’s the first Sunday of March, and the windows of my home are open. After a long winter of frigid temperatures and numbing isolation, it is glorious to feel the refreshing breeze tickle my face while listening to the beautiful chirping of our spring peepers. These melodic little frogs sing their chorus, a jingle a bit like sleigh bells, reminding us to hang on: Spring is peeping around the corner.
These little creatures remind me that sunshine and freedom are coming, and I smile, thinking of Gracie’s favorite teacher in the world. In 3rd grade Gracie had Mrs. Shelly Kraus, whose theme for that year was FROG. The room was teaming with the cute googly-eyed critters in all shapes and sizes. Even the students’ desks and locker nameplates incorporated this theme. Yet these wee creatures were just an adorable means to an end.
This teacher instilled in my child the philosophy of F.R.O.G. –Fully Rely On God. Mrs. Kraus didn’t just teach 3rd grade curriculum; she imparted a life-long mantra in my child because she lived her own life this way. Being in that classroom with that soft-spoken Christian made my daughter a better person, academically and spiritually.
Shelly Kraus made us all better people.
I think of this friend everyday as I battle my own cancer, and I fervently, selfishly wish she were here, holding my hand, reassuring me, praising Jesus in the middle of it all. As I study scripture, I find myself longing to talk to her, to gain her wisdom about this scripture or that.
This week in my chronological study, I am reading Exodus. Through Moses and Aaron, God has sent plague after plague, each one worse than the last. First He turns the river and waters to blood. This doesn’t seem to phase Pharaoh. Then God sends frogs, gnats, flies, disease, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness, but it isn’t until He kills the first born of every Egyptian family that He ultimately brings Pharaoh to his knees, convincing Him to let the Israelites go.
My first thought is befuddlement. After repeated warnings, Pharaoh still refused to acknowledge the power of God. He hardened his heart every time God removed a plague. His stubbornness brought suffering upon himself and his entire country. It took ten plagues, including the death of his firstborn son, to get Pharaoh to obey God.
I wonder how many plagues does it take for God to get my attention? How many does it take for you?
Then I got stuck on the frogs.
By ten years old my oldest son, Phillip, was was crazy about all things icky. Lizards. Salamanders. Chameleons. And of course, frogs.
As cute as those little critters were, what I remember most is the stench. Each week we’d get a box of crickets to feed them and we’d clean out their terrarium. I’d don a face mask –not even kidding –and rubber gloves and get down to work, scrubbing their poop off everything in that cage and the glass itself. The smell was relentless, which brings me back to the Plague of Frogs.
“…Let My people go… If you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls…” –Exodus 8:1-3
I remember that terrarium and the chalky white fecal matter I’d use an old toothbrush to scrub off. I can vividly imagine frogs in the small, mud-brick one or two room houses of the poor and in the two or three story homes of the rich. I see them in the bedrooms of royalty, infiltrating even the upper floors. Of course, I think more of their excrement than of the frogs themselves.
“The Lord did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields. So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul.” –Exodus 8:13-14
At this point, not only do the Egyptians have the smell that lingers from the frog, but they now also the rotting carcasses do deal with…. and they simply pile these dead frogs in heaps. Can you imagine the stench? The smell of death must have been inescapable, permeating the air, their clothing, their food.
Gross. Just gross, right?
But stay with me.
Our sins are much like these frogs. Not the cute little frogs in a teacher’s classroom, but the stinky, mess-making frogs in Egypt. God will forgive and cleanse us of these sins, but like the piles of frogs, He does not often remove the aftermath of those sins. So whatever mess we make of our lives, whether it be from lusting, overspending, cheating, gossiping, whatever we do, if we truly repent, he will forgive us.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:19
But we must live with our stench. If you FROG –Fully Rely On God –you will overcome that sin and He will give you the strength to clean up your mess.
You might have to don a figurative face mask and rubber gloves. Your eyes will probably water. But with determination and hard work, He will help you overcome every stench. With Him, all things are possible.
As you listen to the spring peepers in the coming days, remember to FROG, my friends.
Gracie & I painted this stool as an end-of-school-year gift for Mrs. Kraus in May 2014.