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Recovery, Relapse, and The Little Foxes

by Pastor Mark Winslett
Director of Counseling

“Take us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.”
Song of Solomon 2:15

There is an important principle captured in this simple statement from scripture, “The little foxes spoil the vines.” Fences are built around vineyards to prevent animals from coming in and eating the grapes. Imagine a deer feasting on ripe clusters of grapes hanging from the vines. Little foxes are smaller animals that cannot reach the hanging grapes so they gnaw the vines off at the ground, causing the out of reach fruit to fall with the ruined vine. It is one thing to lose some of one seasons grapes, but it is far worse to lose forever a vine that took 12 to 14 years to mature.

The vine represents your life and all the forward progress you have made; progress that took a lot of time and hard work. The grapes represent the fruit of your progress. Healthy living will produce positive and enjoyable things in your life and we are quick to defend our grapes from obvious things that threaten them.

Little foxes represent the small things we often ignore, little things and details that go unchecked, things we refuse to deal with. While pesky and annoying, we tend to dismiss the little foxes in our lives as no big deal. Those in addiction recovery often excuse dealing with these crucial details by pointing to the progress they have made with larger issues. The conversation goes something like this, “I know I ought to deal with my (fill in the blank with things like anger, lack of accountability, foul mouth, selfishness, negative attitude, smoking, diet, unhealthy relationship) but at least I am not shooting heroin anymore.” I wonder how many times, “If you knew how far I have come,” has been used to dismiss a friend, counselor, family member, or pastor trying to help someone in recovery recognize and deal with their little foxes?

Much of the mystery surrounding relapse can be traced back to avoiding or overlooking what seems small when compared to larger and uglier life issues. Yet the little foxes gnaw away at us day in and day out. The damage they cause is not immediately noticeable and this is why relapse for many seems to come out of nowhere.

Unchecked issues can be a hindrance to healthy living whether we are in recovery or not. What little foxes are you ignoring in your life?

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