A Squirrel Who Needed Love
About two years ago, I was walking with a friend through a wooded area when a baby squirrel jumped out of a tree and started to frantically chase us. I don’t know much at all about animals. So the first thing that came to my mind was: oh oh. This thing has rabies. We started to run, really, really fast. But the baby squirrel seemed faster. We ran as fast as we could, for as long as we could. And every time we looked back, the baby squirrel was still right behind us. We got rid of it eventually. When I came home, I researched why this baby squirrel had so persistently chased us. I found out that one likely reason the baby squirrel chased us, was because it wanted a mother. It was looking for love, safety, and protection in me, or my friend. I remember thinking: if I only had known that… I would have loved it. I am quite sure that I would have turned around and grabbed the baby, and found a way to sneak it into my apartment.
Now, why did the squirrel run so fast for love?
The power of love
Well, love is something that we all need, and love is the start of a healthy physical and emotional life.
Love is a powerful drug to make us feel good. In one research, people were shown pictures of loved ones and their brains in a similar way with pleasant feelings as it would respond to cocaine. This makes love very desirable to the brain.
Love diminishes feelings of pain by 50%. In other words, people who are loved and surrounded by love feel less pain.
But a very important one is, that the entire brain and the nervous systems of people need the attentiveness of others around us to develop and to learn emotional self-regulation. People need security, safety, and the love of others in order to thrive and to have good mental health.
Of course the squirrel doesn’t need emotion regulation. But you get where I am going. We live in one of the largest mental health crises today. A recent survey shows that stated how 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness.” They lack love. And the consequences are more pain, less healthy brains, less emotion regulation, and as a result, even more loneliness.
A shocking 1 in 3 people today lack love, security, protection, affection, and kindness. Perhaps in West Michigan, we take the love of family and of a good friend group for granted. But think of all the people you encounter during the day. Happy… happy… lonely. Happy happy lonely. They are right there. They just don’t frantically run behind us. Usually.
The solution of Christianity
In this big lack of love, people forget that Christianity is the solution to this massively big societal problem. Because here is Jesus who says: All day long have I stretched out my arms… to shelter you like a wing shelters her chicks. And here is the Father who said: Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.
So I picture walking through the forest, next to Jesus. A squirrel jumps out of a tree and frantically starts to chase me. I run, but Jesus, knowing what is in the heart of the squirrel, stops, scoops up the animals, and walks the earth with it. And that is what Jesus did. He encountered people who ran behind him and shouted: Jesus, son of David, have mercy! And Jesus stopped every time, and had mercy.
Father… I don’t know how to heal mental health problems. But you revealed that most of them start with a lack of love. I can love. We all can love. Help us to stop, turn around, and give to whoever comes for it.