It all started with a bite in the butt.
Perhaps it was bullying, perhaps not. But Ping had to be moved out of the deluxe bi-level condo she had shared with her roommate, Pong, into a minimum security bungalow. Things seemed fine at first but then Ping ran away. She wasn't seen for two days and we worried about her, out in the big world on her own. Then we found her - in the back of the fridge.
An elaborate rescue was mounted involving power tools and peanut butter, stoked with Chilean inspiration. Just when we thought we had her, Ping slipped past her rescuers. She wasn't going back. Ping wanted to be a Free Range Hamster.
Carelessness caught up with her the next day, when a trail of seeds led us to her secret hideout a few feet from her open cage. It was clear that she had been enjoying the comforts of home while reveling in her rebel freedom. She wanted to have her cage and flee it, too.
After upgrading security measures, Ping was put safely back where she belonged. It should be noted here that she is a very, very tiny rodent, because the next morning, Ping, aka Houdini, was on the lam again. She was not going to stay confined to four cage walls and a hamster wheel.
Don't we all have a bit of rebel hamster in us? Nobody likes to feel trapped, stuck in limiting circumstances. We get tired of running our hearts out on the hamster wheel every day but getting nowhere. What are the confines we chafe against? Authority? Rules? Taxes, jobs, finances, mortgages? Our roles. The seasons we are in. The places we live. More seriously and more sadly, some of us are struggling against relationships and marriages. Often we are chafing at the constraints of our choices; at our lot in life.
Like Ping, the thought of shaking it all off can be very appealing. Sometimes we do have the freedom to make different choices that open up a whole new world. But more often we don't.
I chafe against the limitations and disappointments of my prematurely arthritic body, which is neither as tall or as narrow as I wish. Sure, I can make choices that help me feel better and move better, but I just can't turn myself into a willowy 5-foot-10-inch ectomorph. Really. I've tried. And I can't climb out of this body either. Likewise, sometimes I resent my role as chief housekeeper and taxi driver but for now that's part of being a mom, a role and privilege I will never give up.
Contentment is key. Contentment and confidence that somebody else is in control. When I look in the Bible I read that God made me what He made me - and He calls it good and awesome and wonderful. I also read that He has put me where He wants me, in this place, in this season, in this role - for a purpose. I can participate in this purpose and look for the opportunities He puts in front of me. Or I can run away. It's my choice.
The errant rodent found her way back to her open cage a few nights later. Ping was cavorting on her wheel and stocking up on supplies before her next nocturnal escapade, I'm sure, when we happened to see her and closed the door. The prodigal hamster now resides in solitary, under maximum security. Her cage is deep inside a plastic bin with tall slippery sides (although, I bet she has a grappling hook stashed somewhere in the wood chips).
Ping is beaten, but not broken. She seems to have made peace with her new digs. We have a lot of fun watching her play on her wheel. Ping runs with such abandon that it overtakes her, sends her on a couple of 360s and then flings her out, tumbling across the bedding. She shakes it off, then scrambles back to the wheel and does it all over again.
Jennifer Zach lives in Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband and three children. They are members of Bridgeway Community Church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.