The epicenter for the COVID-19 virus in the United States is New York City. The epicenter for squirrels in the United States is my backyard.

We have lived in our current home for 17 years. When my wife and I bought the house, it had four huge trees in the backyard: one oak, two maples and one pecan. A few years ago, an ice storm destroyed our two maple trees, leaving the oak and pecan tree. These two trees are an all-you-can-eat buffet for squirrels.

We are now in the season where the battle begins between us and our resident rodents. We plant green beans; they dig up our green beans. We plant flowers; they dig up our flowers. Our neighbor planted an apple tree on our fence line, so half of the tree cascades over to provide us with fresh apples. We have yet to eat a single one. These squirrels are like little children: They run along the fence, stop and pick an apple, take a few bites, throw it down, pick another one and repeat.

Squirrels only have two seasons in their life cycle. In the fall, they harvest the pecans and acorns, digging in our yard to bury them, storing up for winter. The rest of the year, they are digging in our yard, trying to remember where they buried their treasures. It’s not unusual to see a half-dozen squirrels digging in our backyard, standing up to scratch their heads and then going to another spot. Our yard has only one season: A squirrel is digging in it 365 days a year.

For the last two years, I have tried planting sunflower seeds. I wanted to grow a mammoth sunflower, harvest the seeds, soak them in a salt solution and roast them. To this day, I haven’t had a single sunflower sprout. I tried again this year, but I’m afraid the squirrels like sunflower seeds as much as I do.

My wife’s number-one Google search these days is “How to discourage squirrels.” Just recently, she read that squirrels don’t like the smell of coffee grounds, and if you sprinkle the grounds around your plants, the scent will repel them. My cup runneth over when it comes to coffee these days, and after every pot, she gathers up the filter and runs out to her vegetable and flower beds, spreading out the coffee grounds. I thought some of our plants had a disease, but when I bent down to examine them, I realized the black spots were coffee grounds. I won’t be surprised next spring to see coffee trees sprouting.

This morning, my wife read online that squirrels and other rodents do not like the smell of dryer sheets. I guess I must be a rodent, because I don’t like that smell, either. Besides that, I’m not sure how to coax a squirrel into the dryer.  We have been told to get a dog. We had one, but it dug bigger holes than the squirrels.

And the main thing I dislike about squirrels is their attitudes. They smirk. In our living room, I have a big picture window that looks out onto the back 40. The squirrels will come up to the window, put their little paws on the glass and press their faces there to see if I am sitting in my La-Z-Boy. When we make eye contact, they start their smirking.  As you can see, I have a squirrel problem.

Squirrel problems come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all a constant irritant. Yours might look like your boss, a next-door neighbor or even someone you gave birth to. But do you know why I really don’t like squirrels? They bring out the worst in me. My problem isn’t really a squirrel problem; it is a “me” problem.

Remember when the disciples had a squirrel problem of their own? They got outraged over a lady who poured expensive perfume on Jesus. “A woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on His head as He was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked” (Matt. 26:7-8).

Jesus had to straighten them out. He knew her actions were not a problem but a blessing in disguise. Out of the woman’s obedience to anoint Jesus, she was preparing Him for His burial. What they saw as a waste, she saw as worship.

When annoyances come your way, take time to ask yourself what God is trying to teach you. Yes, God has even used squirrels to teach me His ways.

But I have the last laugh. Did you know squirrels are never mentioned in the Bible? Guess who is smirking now?