overcome – verb | over·come | \ˌō-vər-ˈkəm\

: to defeat (someone or something)
: to successfully deal with or gain control of (something difficult)
: to affect (someone) very strongly or severely


Last week as I was working in my home office, I saw our black cat Shadow bouncing around on the back patio suspiciously. I watched her for a few seconds before realizing she actually was playing with something. Something alive.

It’s not the first time that Shadow, or Kiki as we call her, has hunted, pounced on, then toyed with a small chipmunk or mouse. But when I went out to investigate, my heart sank when I realized she had attacked a hummingbird, the hummingbird I had particularly invited into our yard with flowers and feeders. My heart pounded as I shooed away the cat to give the little bird a proper ending. But the bird moved, then fluttered. His tiny humming wings propelled him a few feet away. Unfortunately, Kiki captured him in her mouth again.

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Our black Lab, Tilly, was outside with me, too. Suddenly she was very interested in whatever was garnering my attention, especially if it involved the cat. Each time Kiki opened her mouth and dropped the tiny bird, Tilly bounded in. With all my strength, I pushed away feline and canine alike, trying to give the bird a fighting chance.

Eventually, the bird, the cat, and the dog were all in separate locations on the patio. I grabbed the cat and threw her in the house and then pushed Tilly through the door, too. I wasn’t sure how to nurse to health an injured hummingbird, but seeing no blood or open wounds and encouraged by the fact that the little bird could still fly, I guided the bird over toward the fence and under the dense coverage of hostas.

When I walked back into the house, both dog and cat were begging to get outside and back into the action. I felt sick at the Wild Kingdom/circle of life drama going on in my own back yard. I glared into the eyes of my pets and felt outraged. Later, when I was breathing normally again and had forgiven the animal members of my family for their transgressions, I went back outside and parted the leaves of the giant hostas. The bird was gone. Relief settled in, even as I began to miss the little hummer flitting and flying outside my window. He still hasn’t come back. And I don’t blame him.

I’ve felt outrage a lot lately, as atrocities from police brutality and racial injustice to inhumane hunting and organ harvesting from aborted babies come at us day after day. And those are just the beginning: serial killings and mass shootings, terrorists zeroing in on US targets, sports heroes condemned for cheating, and continued vitriol over same-sex marriage all occupy prime spots in my social media feed and the evening news. I barely have time to digest what one outrage means before the next one comes.

It’s hard for me to admit, but all the outrage has affected my faith in Jesus in ways I couldn’t predict and barely understand. At times, I find myself numb to the next bit of news, I feel lonely when I don’t always fit neatly into the “sides” of an issue, I wonder if I still believe what I once did when I see others expressing my views hatefully, and I am paralyzed about how to pray for everything and everyone all at the same time.

I have nearly been overcome by evil.

But recently, I decided just to lay this out to Jesus: all the outrage as well as the feeling of being overcome. Without knowing how, I decided to trust that somehow he could lead me through it. In my searching, I came again to Romans 12, a very practical chapter for how to respond to others in many situations. As I neared the end, I felt my soul fill up as I read this: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I don’t have all the answers, I can’t fix all the problems, I’m not even aware of most of the evil that happens in the world. But I do know what it means to do good, at least at the most basic level.

It starts with rescuing a bird, but it also means taking care of the pets that nearly killed it.

And it keeps going from there.


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Photo by Pat Gaines, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.