Lessons from a Dead Rat

Our Happy Blue School experienced a temporary move this week!

John and I had a choice.

Leave it there.

Or do something about it.

On Monday morning, our Happy Blue School wasn’t so happy.

Huge, black flies had descended upon our little classroom. They were congregating at a particular point on the ceiling – doing all they could to try to break through the barrier between ceiling and crawl space.

Our Jake abhors flies. Their buzzing and whirring and nonsensical flying maneuvers make him anxious. The only good fly to Jake is a dead fly.

The problem was that just as we dealt with one pesky fly, another target-fixated fly flew into the room, drawn to this one particular area of our Happy Blue School ceiling.

It was clear.

Something dead was lying just above our heads.

The odoriferous stench was just starting to sink into the room. The flies were desperate to reach the lifeless creature. Our family, on the other hand, was less than thrilled that the creature had decided to offer its last breath above our heads. We knew what is was too. Rats frequent this crawl space– breaking open pecans over our heads or burrowing into the insulation to keep warm on frigid winter days. Unfortunately, the crawl space is too low for us to reach. The ceiling is just inches below the flat roof. As a result, rats have had free reign – doing as they please. It’s not pleasant to hear them scurrying here and there. However, let me assure you. It is far more unpleasant to have a rat decide to die up there – knowing that we cannot reach it. That rat may be at peace, but our Happy Blue School certainly wasn’t.

Now, that we have reached spring, the temperatures have risen significantly in southern Africa. Thus, that rat would soon be baking. And as it baked, the smell emanating from its warming body would be deplorable.

Have you ever smelled a dead rat left to bake in the rafters?

Believe me, I can tell you from more than one experience, a dead, smelly, baking rat causes the stomach to turn!

So, as I shared, John and I had a choice.

We could leave the rat in its place and let the smell and decay run its course.

Or we could cut open the ceiling, search for it and remove it.

What would you do?

Believe me, we talked this decision over for quite a while. Because, if we did open up the ceiling, anything and everything that was up there would be coming down upon our little Happy Blue School floor.

As we talked, the aromatic stench continued to fill the room. There was no way that we could keep our Happy Blue School in session.

It was decided. We moved our little school room set-up to the kitchen, and John began to cut open the ceiling to find the dead rat.

It was quite the project.

John ended up removing an entire section of the ceiling. In so doing, rat evidence (aka rat poop) piled up on the floor just as we expected. Gross. Gross. Gross.

In time, we discovered a limp rat’s tail hanging from a beam. It was clear the rat had been there a while as flies and worms were feasting upon the little beast with the big stink. The good news though was that we found it!

It’s now been three days since the rat was removed. It’s taken a while longer to remove the smell. By Monday, we think we’ll be able to reconvene our Happy Blue School and get back to normal.

As I’ve thought about all of this, a life lesson has arisen in my mind from this dead, stinky rat. Yes, even a dead, stinky rat offers me life applications!

You see, we had a choice to leave the rat where it lay or deal with it.

If we had left the rat in place, its smell and decay would have infiltrated our lives. In time, the rat stink would have become ‘normal’ to us. We wouldn’t have dealt with the remains or the fact that its dead body was attracting other less than hygienic creatures. The flies alone were a nuisance. Yet, if we had let the dead rat lie, we wouldn’t have dealt with soiled, contaminated, stinky, stinky, stinky mess. We would have ignored it.

But, we didn’t.

We decided to literally – clean house – and extract a dead rat and all of its doings!

We wanted a neat, tidy and rat-and-rat-poop-free space.

Like I said, all of this made me wonder….

Are there any dead rats that need to be extracted from our lives?

What are the dead rats that are disturbing our sense of peace?

What are the dead rats that are infiltrating our morals?

What are the dead rats that are contaminating our thoughts?

What are the dead rats that are harming our relationships?

What are the dead rats that are shaming our consciences?

What are the dead rats that need to be identified and removed once and for all?

Friends, if there is a dead, stinky rat in your life, believe me, you want it gone!

As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the old, stinky rat is gone, and the new life has come!” Well, it doesn’t exactly say that, but you get the idea…

Any thought, idea, activity, or even a person that pollutes, poisons or harms you in anyway does not belong in your life.

It may take some work.

You may need to pull things completely apart before you can put them back together again. But, you can do it!

Yes, you can!

Deal with the dead rat.

We did.

And our house is back in order.

Your life will be, too!

Think about it.

Do you have a dead rat in your life that needs to go?

4 thoughts on “Lessons from a Dead Rat

  1. Heather, I love your life lessons. And I am so glad your stinky rat is gone. Makes me wonder what rat I need to get rid of in my life. Thank you for waking up my senses.

    1. Hi Shara,
      Thanks for writing to me! I can categorically state that your olfactory senses definitely would be awake if you’d been over here the past three days! Rats are not my favorite thing. When we moved into this house, they acted like they owned it. In the first two months, John trapped 11 different rats and sent them to their happy foraging grounds – wherever that might be! 🙂 It’s a lot better now. But one thing we learned when we moved here, everyone has rats. Everyone. I hope you have a great end of your week! And I hope to see you when we’re in Oregon in November! With love, heather

  2. Eugh, I don’t envy you that experience. Glad it’s taken care of.

    I’ve had a lot of dead rats to remove from my life. My mother, my father, my sister, my theology, my indoctrination, my self-doubt, my anxiety, my shame, my learned helplessness, my suppressed anger, my confusion, my discomfort with my body… layer upon layer it seems like and I’m still mucking out that attic and finding bits and pieces that got left behind. But it’s a lot cleaner up there than it used to be, and I never realized before how fresh and clean the air could be. It’s worth the work and the temporary suffering, but sometimes you don’t realize you have work to do until the flies show up. 😛

    1. Hi Evan, thank you for your reflections. You should have seen how HUGE these flies were that descended upon our little room. South Africans have a name for them, but I’ve forgotten. Yes, we all have ‘dead rats’ in our lives that we need to clean out from our hearts and minds. I am sorry that in your situation that this included family. However, I know that from other friends in my life, that they have had to do something similar to be healthy.

      I hope you are doing well. I cannot believe that October is here – has your year gone as fast as mine has?

      Take care, and thanks for dropping by again.


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