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Lessons From A Dung Beetle

Ever realized you were going in the wrong direction? In fact, that you had been going in the wrong direction for so long that you thought there was no turning back?

You got involved with a clique in high school, only to find out a few weeks later that they were into shady behavior and were trying to pull you there, too.

You became a drug addict, and now find yourself stealing to support the habit. You know it’s wrong, but you’re in too deep now.

You married a man who turned out to be abusive.

You entered a career that turned out to be totally wrong for you two years later.

You backbit against your best friend, and she found out about it.

You turned your back on your father, and now that he lies sick and dying, you wish you could have reconciled the conflict a long time ago and not lost so many years.

The other day, we watched a dung beetle move in the wrong direction.

No, seriously. I’m going to make an inspiring and encouraging point if you’ll just keep reading for a few more paragraphs.


The saga begins…

We’d gone to visit the stream on the property adjacent to ours. On the way there, we encountered a pile of poop. On the way back, say, twenty minutes later, we encountered it again. This time, however, there were two dung beetles hard at work.

The first one to dislodge his treasure formed it into a perfect ball before beginning to move it. Then he rolled it diligently across the side of the road where the road met easily with the woods. (If you’ve never seen a dung beetle at work in real life, it’s actually quite fascinating the first time you see it.) He had a few tumbles rolling down miniscule hills on the way there, but he made it.

In the meantime, the other beetle was taking longer to get his piece. When he finally did, it was a bit oblong. Instead of fixing it into a ball, he began to roll it, anyway.

It looked like he was having an awkward time of it at first.

Lesson one: Before you can get the ball rolling, you have to make sure it’s a ball.

Too many people settle. They settle for a person who looks “good enough” for a lifelong mate instead of seeking the perfect fit that God has for them. They settle for a stressful or boring job because it’s too much bother to try to get another one.

They settle with their friends, even if the group generally produces an unwholesome effect on them, because they’re afraid of being alone, or, worse, rejected. They’re afraid of seeking help for a habit because they’re afraid they’ll get into trouble – or will fail to kick it, and they can’t stand to experience any more failure.

They settle with oblong chunks, instead of a ball that will roll smoothly.

They settle, and life is anything but a smooth ride.

The continuing saga of the dung beetle…

After some time, the morsel of dung that the second beetle had nabbed became more like a ball and easier to roll. But we saw clearly that his troubles were not over. He was headed straight for the side of the road that had a stream of water running through it. It wasn’t so deep that a beetle couldn’t have walked through it without any trouble; however, any bit of water will wash away poop residue.

Besides, at the other side of the bug-sized stream was a steep bank. There was no way he was going to be able to roll the thing up there.

Lesson two: You need to plan ahead.

People who end up going in the wrong direction usually haven’t planned ahead. Prospective college students don’t talk to, or work with for a few weeks, veterans in the profession they are aspiring to in order to discover what it’s really like. Couples get married within a few weeks of dating, not allowing themselves time to really get to know each other.

Would-be entrepreneurs start a business without finding out the realities of overhead, and how long and hard they will have to work before breaking enough of a profit to make a living. Many people working toward a dream don’t have a contingency plan in case unexpected obstacles occur.

Obstacles like steep banks and sodden landscapes.

The journey went on…

We continued to watch the dung beetle  – I breathing through my nose to avoid the offensive odor – thinking that maybe the beetle was going to follow the stream rather than try to cross it. It almost became like watching a suspense movie as we waited to see which direction the beetle will go.

Within a couple of minutes, it became obvious that he was headed for the water. Our emotions heightened. We began arguing about whether the beetle would go across the stream, and if he did, whether he could make it up the bank afterwards.

A couple minutes after that, the beetle hit the stream.

And immediately began rolling his treasure in the other direction, back toward the road.

Lesson three: It’s never too late to change direction.

If you are in an abusive relationship, you still have time to get out. If you are addicted to drugs, you still have time to seek help. If you find yourself in the wrong career, you still have time to switch gears.

If you have offended a friend, or become estranged from a family member, you still have time to seek forgiveness. Or to forgive.

The dung beetle did not sit in the water and watch all his precious poop get washed away. He did not say, “Oh, no. Well, I’ve come too far to do anything about it now. I guess I’ll just have to lose everything.”

He did not take on the victim mentality.

As soon as he realized his mistake, he turned around and headed in the opposite – the right – direction.

The end?

We didn’t stay long enough to watch him roll his ball to its ultimate destination. We did see, however, that he was headed back in the direction that his – perhaps more experienced? – comrade had gone.

The beetle was going to finally fulfill what he had intended to, but because he had taken the wrong direction, he expended a lot more time and effort to do so.

Lesson four: Going the right direction in the first place will save you a lot of time and work.

If you have been going in the wrong direction in any area of your life, it’s not too late to turn and head in the right direction.

But from now on, remember the lesson of the dung beetle: if you can figure out the right direction in the first place, you will save yourself a lot of time, stress, and probably money.

And you will be that much freer to live the life of your dreams. That, my friend, is the happiest ending of all – even if your calling is to clean up other people’s poop.

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