Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Power of Prayer (Part One)

Way back when we lived in California, and my oldest son was 4 and my oldest daughter was 3, we lived in an old bunk house that didn’t have screens on the windows or doors. It also wasn’t air-conditioned, so we left the windows and doors open during the summer. At night, we would lie in bed, and watch one of the local bats swooping about, catching bugs in the room where we slept. It was kind of homey, in a weird sort of way.

One morning, as we were getting ready to eat breakfast, my daughter looked up at the fly paper hanging over the kitchen table. “What’s that?” she asked. Kevin and I looked… and there was something lumpy attached to the fly paper… like a tightly crumpled piece of paper that would fit in the palm of my hand. We looked closer. And we realized it was our poor bat.

It had gotten caught in the fly paper overnight, and as it had struggled to get loose, it had only succeeded in spreading the glue over its wings, and its body. Now it was so sticky, that it couldn’t spread its wings at all, and it lay glued to itself in tight crumples and creases.

Kevin gently pulled the bat off the fly paper, and we put it in a box. And we went back to our meal. We bowed our heads and did Grace, and were thankful for our meal. Then, my little son, with his head bowed and his hands clasped, said something like this, “And, God, please help the bat get better so it can fly again and be happy.” And my little daughter, with her head bowed and her hands clasped, opened her eyes wide and looked adoringly at her brother, and nodded in agreement.

Oh, Lord. Kevin and I had silently been discussing whether it would be better to let the bat die quietly on its own, or put it down. There was no Way that bat could survive, with its crumpled sticky horrible wings. Oh, Lord. How could I tell the children that there was no way that God could save the bat?

Well, I couldn’t tell them.

“What are you going to do?” Kevin whispered, when he kissed me good-bye on his way to work. “I guess I’m going to try to save a bat,” I said. Dang it. It was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. I had enough to do, with three little ones in the house, and another due in a few months. But when a little child prays, it’s mighty hard not to try to help that prayer come true. “Good luck,” sez my husband….

“A bat in the fly paper?” said the animal rescue lady. “I’ve had people save hummingbirds who got stuck on fly paper… but a bat? Hmmmm….” I had called the local wild animal rehabilitation center, in the hopes that someone would know what to do. No, they didn’t have any experience with bats on fly paper per se, but the lady encouraged me. Between us, we came up with a plan to use Kevin’s Go-Jo waterless hand cleaner as a solvent to get rid of the fly paper glue. “Good luck,” she said. “It’s awfully nice of you to try to save a bat. Most folks wouldn’t do it.” Most folks don’t have a 4-year-old and a 3-year-old following their every move with big eyes (and now the one-year-old was getting interested too).

Well, the bat and I had a long day getting to know each other. I held it still and wiped Go-Jo over its wings with Q-tips. And a bit at a time I was able to remove the sticky stuff. And slowly the wings unfurled. Slowly, it began to look like a bat, instead of a gray crumpled piece of paper. It took forever. But it was finally done. And then I had a bat in my hands, instead of a dying wad of sticky flesh. A very tired and unhappy, helpless and certainly hungry bat. But a bat, complete with lovely gray papery wings that opened and closed.

The wild animal rehabilitation lady had said that if I managed to get the bat unstuck, I should tie a dishtowel to a tree trunk as high as I could reach, and then allow the bat to crawl under the towel. She said it would shelter there until nightfall, resting. So we did, and the little thing crawled under the towel, and we waited. And night came, and we went to sleep, in a house that had had all the fly paper carefully removed.

In the morning, we all went out to the tree and looked under the towel. No bat. And the children clapped their hands, and laughed and looked all around up into the blue sky. Spinning, looking into the sky, hands clasped in glee, eyes shining…. And Kevin and I looked all around on the ground at the base of the tree, all over the ground in that part of the yard… until we finally looked up at each other…. “Maybe it’s OK,” he said quietly. “Maybe a cat got it,” I murmured. “Maybe,” he said. “We’ll never know.” And the children spinning, and grinning, and saying, “God did it! The bat’s OK!” Well, maybe the bat is. Maybe it lived. There was a bat flying in our bedroom, a few nights later, catching bugs.

That’s the power of prayer for you. Things you never thought were possible, become possible, just as a matter of course.


kevin roberts said...

It was a Western Pipistrelle. And you didn't mention how it was ungrateful and tried to bite through your gloves the whole time.

Or about how the house didn't have water, or plumbing, or electricity, or heat, and how you could watch the stars through the roof from in your bed?

How we used kerosene lamps for light, cooked on a Coleman, and gave the babies cold-water baths in five gallon buckets we filled from the neighbor's hose?

Of course, we still don't have running water where we are now. But I'm working on it.

Diane said...

Great story Shawna.

Shawna said...

You make it sound so... idyllic.

No wonder I married you. You always put such a positive spin on things.

As long as you're at it, you might as well mention the crow who sat on the backs of our chairs and begged for bits of buttered toast!

Shawna said...

Thanks, Diane!

kevin roberts said...


As I remember, the crow spent most of its time redepositing buttered toast onto your hat, in a somewhat more processed form.

Annie said...

I've been a quiet follower of yours for a while. When I found this story of the bat tonight my nose was practically touching the monitor by the time I finished reading it. I really like bats and I held my breath waiting for a happy ending - and I found it. God bless.

Shawna said...

Hi Annie,
Thanks for saying "Hi"!

The bat was a Dos Palos bat, which is a little town outside of Los Banos, which is near your stomping grounds, I think.

I once spent a long, wet, muddy night in an almond orchard in Turlock, in a truck parked sideways against an almond tree (I could tell it was an almond tree because I recognized the branches poking in the passenger side window). Careful on that Turlock mud. It can be a mite slick!

Annie said...

Yes indeed. Los Banos is right down the road from us about 35 minutes. Small world. :-)