The Steps that Led Me to Murder

Sometimes we think we’re so righteous.

Sometimes we think there are things we wouldn’t do.

But often it’s not because we’re so good that we don’t yield to more temptation but because our experiences are so limited, so sheltered, so privileged.

I thought about that the day I tried to kill our lizards.

One of my kids, I will not name her in this post but you can guess which one she is, had a relentless desire for house pets. One of her parents, I will also not name his name in this post but you’ll get the idea, was no match for her pout in the pet store. (The other parent, ME, wisely avoided entering all pet stores with said child.)

We had two cats which were wonderful creatures. We’d also had a poodle who was not. He smelled. He barked. He howled. And he didn’t like to pee outside when it rained (or was cloudy, damp, or slightly humid). Anyway, we’d lucked out one February night when he disappeared (I mean, sadly, one February night, he disappeared.)

We were in pet loss recovery when this child’s OTHER parent thought a stroll through the pet shop might move her grieving process along.

Oh, it moved all right. Right into an expensive and tedious relationship with an aquarium full of anoles.

Have you ever cared for an anole?

They are tiny lizards that look kind of cute until you learn they’re more high maintenance than rare orchids. They require one kind of special heat lamp by day and then a different type of heat lamp by night. They need their environment “spritzed” with filtered water several times a day. Their entire aquarium needs to be changed and cleaned regularly.

To top it off, they live on live crickets. Yes, that’s right. We bought pets to feed to our pets – which also requires regular trips to the pet store which must be avoided with one particular small member of our family who seemed to have been directly descended from Noah.

Anyway, little Miss Noah Jr. loves animals but she tires quickly of the actual care and maintenance of said pets. And, of course, the parent who indulges her at pet stores worked a full-time job so the parent who knew better than to drag her into pet stores was left with the day in and day out care of this crew of lizards.

Day and night. Night and day. Change the light. Clean the cage. Spritz the cage. Buy the crickets. Feed the anoles. Change the light. Clean the cage. Spritz the cage. Buy the crickets. Feed the anoles. This endless ritual was tagged onto caring for actual humans who also needed daily care, cleaning and feeding, homeschooling and caring for two cats.

Sometimes I comforted myself with the thought that every pet dies. How long can anoles live, after all?

A really long time apparently.

After months and months (and oh, the miraculous return of our smelly, high strung poodle after four months missing! My cup runneth over), I found myself casually Googling the life expectancy of anoles, potential diseases, their causes, etc.

Then, after even the pet loving child stopped staring into the aquarium, moving on as she had with the miracle dog’s return, I started doing not as thorough a job of cleaning the cage and found myself buying sub-standard crickets from a kid on the corner. I spritzed less often. But the hardy anoles seemed to thrive on my neglect.

I noticed the cats seemed fascinated with the lizards so occasionally I left the wire top slightly askew but apparently our cats were so pampered and lazy that the effort of hunting for food had been completely bred out of them. (Hey, we could have done a homeschool unit on the food chain!)

Finally, I found myself one morning leaning over the mesh wire covering of the aquarium holding a can of Raid. “One good long spray”, I thought to myself, “how bad could it be? They’re just lizards, after all. They’ve had a good life. Probably better than most lizards. And no one will ever know.”

“Mom, what are you doing? That’s not the water spray bottle?” Caught in the act, poised in position to murder.

“Oops. Silly me. You’re right. Heh, heh. Just a little mistake there.”

I think I’m so tough and so principled but apparently I can be broken simply by having to care for a tank of thankless lizards for a few months.

Sometimes we think we’re so righteous but maybe we’ve just been so safe and secure for so long, we haven’t run up against a wall of temptation that seemed like the only way out.

There is a verse in Psalm 125 of the Songs of Ascent that says this: “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.”
 The righteous can only suffer evil for so long before they are tempted to use their own hands to do evil.

I try to remember that when I hear about choices other people make – people who live in conditions far different from mine. People who have bigger problems than demanding pets.

Sin is sin is sin and deserves the Lord’s judgment. But, before I judge someone else’s sin, I ask myself what I would do if I lived in their situation. Without the Lord’s help, would I make better choices?

I think about that moment (and many others far worse) when I would happily have committed reptile-icide if I hadn’t been caught and I thank Jesus for His presence in my life. I pray the Lord’s prayer “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

The anoles eventually died. The poodle lived on and on and on. And I continued to pray the Lord’s prayer, especially when that OTHER parent brought home a gift for the child who was grieving her last anole– surprise! – Guinea pigs! (I wish I was making this stuff up!)

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    The Conversation

  1. Heather says:

    Lori, you skillfully addressed a serious topic with some well-placed humor. I think sometimes people on the “outside” look at another person and think they “suddenly” jumped off the deep end into sin. In actuality, many of those situations build up to a drastic decision. Sometimes people are unable to explain to others the trouble they are having. Sometimes, they try to speak up but others don’t think it’s that urgent and do not come to their rescue. Other times it is because the close relationships are not there. We need to support each other in the day-to-day to try to prevent these build-ups of difficulty that become seemingly so unbearable that people take drastic measures to get out from under them. If someone does not have someone to share the burden, they are more likely to become the prey of the devil. It is like the lions that go after the weak and slow zebras who are not hidden in the pack. They are without protection.

  2. Thanks, Heather. I appreciate you understanding what I was going for with this. Sometimes when I get a close look into other people’s lives, I wonder how they cope at all – especially when Jesus isn’t present for them but even believers can be pushed and stressed to heart-breaking levels. It’s easy to “say” there is always a way out but it’s hard, hard, hard to live in some people’s situations. We should have compassion and mercy.

  3. Mid Stutsman says:

    Oh, *snicker*… how I can relate! I have had to repent on my “pet” attitude… ‘nuf said. 🙂 But as you point out, it does go much deeper and follows a vein down into our hearts that has to be excavated ever so often and cleansed by the forgiveness of the Holy Spirit.
    (((Hugs))) stop by for a visit sometime…I’m linked to you here…

  4. I get the deeper meaning, but I’m resonating most with the pet angle. I can SO relate! Our last hermit crab finally died, and I don’t know how long it was dead before anyone noticed. The dumb thing almost never bothered to show itself to us, preferring to hide under the sand. Most of the time it felt like we were spritzing and feeding an empty tank. The most good the so-called “pet” ever did was inspire me to write a poem that won first place in a contest!
    And of course there was the fish I threw in the garden when I was a teenager…but that was a noble act because he ruthlessly murdered every other fish in my tank that he possibly could. My conscience is clear…

  5. Mid, I’ll stop by soon. I pop in and check out your news blurbs. I love them!

    Betsy, did the hermit crabs! and fish! etc, etc. Aahhh, the life of the homeschool parent. As if life didn’t provide enough of a zoo, we feel the need to create one at home!

  6. KB Cook says:

    Lori – Your comments brought to my now-empty-nester mind thoughts of Marmaduke (the hampster) and his replacement, Marmaduke Too (it’s an Asian-American name, folks!). At our house, hampster either died the 1st or 2nd day after leaving the pet store, or they lived on dust-bunnies after escaping the from the tunnels or that around-the-house-ball-thingy. Marmaduke 1 was of Door #1 category and Marmaduke Too was Door #2. We also had Curly, Moe & Larry – the 3 hermit crabs donated by loving grandparents while visiting them in So. Florida. These 3 stooges were the only 3 hermit crabs to stay @ the Disneyworld Pet Hotel (I have the certificate to prove it!). One died enroute by car from So. Florida to So. California the next day and the other 2 died from grief over the next few days. Sitting shiva in a station wagon with 3 kids is a tough way to go. Let me just say this: Thank God! Thank God! I’m free – free at last!! from all 4-footed furries, 2-winged featheries, water-bound scaled-thingies, and crawling things! With the exception of the ?@#$! squirrels who invade my 3rd-floor balcony to feed @ my birdseed feeders. God bless every creature – great & small.

  7. Lori, this is hilarious! My daughter recently went through the OTHER parent adventure with lizards, too. The lizards cost about $10, but the aquarium, gadgets, habitat pieces, rocks, crickets, heat lamps, etc ended up costing about $125!!! And after only a few months, they were both dead. That means those $10 lizards cost an average of $50 a month during their lifespan. I’m sure that if parents were honest, we’d realize repticide is not a rare consideration. Apparently they just die before parents are driven to the point of follow through. Thanks for the laugh!