The spring has brought the joy of sitting on our back porch as the sun sets. The back porch of our homestead over looks the 180 acres of my father’s farm. We can see the sheep grazing and hear the cows from time to time calling from the back of the farm. Often on these nights, my wife and I linger on the back porch, catching up, telling stories after the kids go to bed.
Two nights ago, a set of howls and yelps interrupted our time of calm. Coyotes.
My wife and I froze and listened. They were closer than we were comfortable with – though probably still a half mile or so away.
Luckily, we trust our guardian dog – Sister. When the howling started, Sis let out a period of uninterrupted barking. This is a guardian dog’s first line of defense. She would chase down anything that threatens the sheep, but first she lays down warning barks to scare off any would be predators.
Sister knows her job. She knows it is to protect.
But then there is our other dog – Lola. She is Scottish terrier mix. She is not a guardian dog. Her reaction to the coyotes? She started answering back with her own howls and yelps.
As leaders, in our homes, at our works, our churches, and any other space where you have influence – do you hear the coyotes? Are you howling with them or are you barking at them?
We know those people that strike fear into us, the people who set us on edge. They are pushy, mean, negative, hard headed. They leave carnage in their wake. Many times, we want to remain with the sheep, protect them, guard them, but in our fear we begin to howl. We concede and collude with them. We pacify and enable their behavior. We do this so as to avoid confrontation.
It is not only people that are coyotes in our lives. Have you ever heard anger start yelping in the distance? Have you experienced worry howling without ceasing? How about doubt? Dread? Fret? The panic that you need just one more ________ (fill in your vice or addiction)? We are all harassed by coyotes.
We are called to bark at the coyotes. We are called to stand in our place and say, “You can not bring carnage into this place.” This might mean some awkward conversations. This may mean standing in defense and bracing ourselves for confrontation. This may call us to a new boldness we have not exerted before. It might mean claiming the truth and grace that is found in Christ. It might mean standing your ground even when you feel like howling and yelping with coyotes.
There are hundreds of ways coyotes howl. It is all meant to strike fear, warn of their presence, and say “I am near.” Their howls are meant to instill panic, to scatter the flock and make them easier to pick off. Coyotes mean to harm, not help.
We know the sounds.
How will you react? What will you do when you hear the howls and yelps? Will you howl back or will you stand your ground and bark? Will you let the coyotes know it is not okay to come near those you are given charge over?