The Field Mouse and Ermine – Ken Williams

Sympathy for the prey AND for the predator:

Fifty-two years ago, December 1971, Jesus taught me a life changing lesson while ice fishing in northern Minnesota with a friend. I didn’t grasp the significance of his lesson at that time, but I haven’t forgotten it. Jesus has worked with me until I understand and love the lesson of “The Field Mouse and the Ermine”. 

My friend and I were dressed warmly but it was only 5° Fahrenheit. It was a still, sunny day but we were standing on 6” of snow on top of solid ice. The bitter cold bit my exposed face and after a couple hours of fishing I jogged back to the path that led to the lake. I enjoyed the squeaking sound my Canadian Pacs made with each stride in the dry snow. I entered the woods while viewing my fishing rigs peeking out of the augured hole in the ice. I intended to return to fishing after regaining some warmth.

What happened next captured my full attention and I forgot about fishing.

I witnessed prey and a predator fighting for their lives. A field mouse scrambled to me after my noisy entrance into the woods. He sat at my feet looking up to me. He let me pick him up in my moose hide chopper mitts and remained after closing my hands. I thought, “What the…??” until witnessing an ermine pursuing the mouse’s trail, his next meal, that ended with me. Ermine can become prey but most of the time they are successful predators. This one appeared to be maybe 14” nose to tip of tail. They commonly weigh no more than ½ a pound, but they are fearless, aggressive hunters. His pursuit ended where I was standing, where the mouse’s trail ended. I looked down at this beautiful little creature, snow white except for the black tip of his tail, and his black eyes focused on my eyes. He was not afraid of me and remained with both front paws on my boots.

I was in a quandary, was I going to give the hungry ermine the field mouse? I looked at the mouse in my mitts, his black eyes looking into mine. O.k. but if I “save” the mouse what about the ermine who needed this mouse to survive? I looked down and his black eyes were still fixed on mine. He appeared to know I had his meal in my mitts. Suddenly, the ermine left to retrace the mouse’s trail. He ran a radius of about six feet around me and discovered he was correct; I was holding his prey! I didn’t want either creature to die but had no solution other than jogging a couple yards into the woods, dropping the mouse, and going back to ice fishing. I left it in God’s hands. It dawned on me that caring for God’s creatures was God’s work, not mine!

O.K. but why does the story of “the field mouse and ermine” bring tears to my eyes today?

Fifty-two years ago, I did not understand the deeper significance of “the field mouse and the ermine”. I respected the Creator’s care for his creatures but missed the much deeper message Jesus taught me. I could not comprehend Jesus’ words, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53b

Today I see that I was the ermine, the predator looking for prey that would satisfy my gnawing hunger. I see that I was hungry for Jesus and therefore he was the prey. I see that the Father’s heart, revealed in the Son of God’s willing sacrifice, and the amazing grace of the Holy Spirit, enabling me to come and eat and drink to give me life, ended my life as predator. I come to Jesus’ table to eat and drink, hunger satisfied, and thirst quenched. Jesus Christ was not the frightened field mouse running for his life, he is the willing meal, the Lamb of God, restoring God’s image, the appearance of those who are well fed and cared for.

Ken Williams

Ken and Nancy Williams served for some 25 years in pastoral ministry, and then almost another 20 years serving and mentoring other pastors.  With the heart of a pastor Ken continues to write and blog from upstate New York where he and Nancy live close to their grandchildren. 

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