The eerie, curdling cries of a coyote woke me up out of a sound sleep this morning at about 3:30. It sounded like he was in my backyard. I didn’t know what it was at first because I was not fully awake, but then the “yip yip yee-ow-eeeee” did it. We had also heard from our next door neighbor that coyotes were spotted in our neighborhood over the weekend and we should keep our pets indoors as much as possible, so it was pretty easy to put two and two together.
This was not our first experience with coyotes here anyway. I’ve actually seen them twice, and we hear from time to time that they come down from the open hills that back up to the houses in higher elevations around us when their own food supply is running short. Or maybe they tire of rabbit and squirrel and seek a little domestic cat as a delicacy. (Such was the fate of our last cat a few years ago – one that refused to stay inside.)
But though I have seen them here, I’ve never heard them howl up close until this morning and I must admit, it was a chilling experience. It’s a wild sound, and up that close, it feels like something barbarous has encroached upon our peaceful, domesticated lives.
It makes me think of Peter’s warning in his first letter to the early churches: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I think the reality of this is as foreign to us as hearing a coyote howl under my window, but probably as close, if not closer. We are commonly lulled to sleep by our busy lives and by the false notion that we are in control, and perhaps that is the most dangerous place to be. If we can’t see or hear the enemy, we can get the false impression that he isn’t there, which is, of course, just what he wants. But once in a while, his wild scream slips out and we know better.
This is not to make us scared but to make us aware, praying and on guard against the little sins and compromises that plague us. Sin and evil is nothing to be toyed with.
Bob Dylan wrote that we have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but we have to serve somebody. The truth of that statement is that we are not in as much control as we think we are. We are mostly in charge of who we are going to follow. Hearing the devil howl is mostly a good thing because it reminds me of his close proximity and his devious ways – how he makes wrong things look right and hurtful things appealing.
He’s real, he’s hungry, and he’s on the prowl. His mission is destruction and his method is to keep people away from the saving life of Christ. Stay alert, stay sober and pray. The wild is closer than you think.