Hi there! How’s everybody doing? It’s a windy, partly cloudy, maybe-it-will-rain-maybe-it-won’t sort of day here. Warm, and when the sun is out, quite beautiful. So, grab a glass of tea and find a sunny space to sit a spell and enjoy it all. Is it spring where y’all are? It’s spring here. I can tell by several things – new bright flowers, gentle rains, a few threatening storms. And, my blacksnake is back. I love my blacksnake. I call it a he, though I have no idea of its true gender. He is quite docile, he’s never been aggressive toward me. I don’t try to play with him, I just admire him and take his picture. He keeps all the mice away, so I don’t have to deal with them. About the only time I ever see him is when he’s shedding his skin in the spring. Last year, I only saw the skin he’d shed. This year, I’ve seen him 3 times already; he’s about six feet long. Beautiful. Muscular, powerful, controlled, not in a hurry. Peaceful, actually.
Today, he reminds me of wine skins. He is trying to shed his old skin; that reminds me of losing old wine skins for new ones.
In the Scriptures, Jesus talks about not putting new wine into old wine skins. Old wine skins get brittle, don’t hold things like they should, and don’t expand as the wine ages and ferments. Old snake skin gets constrictive, so it must be shed as growth occurs. We’re the same way, sometimes. We need to shed old things to grow into the new things the Lord has for us.
My snake picked the circuitous route, in and out among the spindles of my deck railing. Several passes over several days; not a quick easy process. He purposely rubs on the rougher spots of the wooden posts, where the grain is exposed and it’s the least smooth. The old dull skin eventually gives way to new shine. He has a wonderfully patient and tenacious nature that makes him keep at it until he’s renewed. Quite a lesson there for me, especially when I’m struggling with something that doesn’t just evaporate after the first prayer.
It’s hard to let the Lord rub off the rough places in my life sometimes. There are days when I think it’s too painful or just too long a process. I want it to be quick and easy. I’m tempted to give up, go curl up someplace and just be. The only problem is that if I’m not growing, I’m dying. Of course we get restful places along the way! But in the active process of change, we can get tired.
Another lesson is that he deliberately and purposefully rubs the roughest places he can find. I wonder sometimes how it feels. Does it feel like just getting out of uncomfortable clothes? Like a back scratch? Like a sunburn peel? Sometimes when the Lord is peeling the deadness away from my heart, it feels more like debridement of a burn. We can get very attached to things in our lives that would ultimately harm us – attitudes, addictions, little ‘pet sins’ that don’t appear to amount to much, but can lead to bigger things quickly. These need to be rubbed away so we’re free of them and can live our lives more effectively, with more joy and more peace. If the snake fails to shed the old, the multiple layers of deadness constrict him, can render him blind, and he will ultimately die.
Our souls are so much like the snake. How often do we excuse something in our lives, instead of shedding it and growing into new life? That person we ‘just can’t’ forgive, or a bit of anger while driving, or that little smug feeling when we compare ourselves to someone to whom we feel superior in some way. Maybe we avoid someone, cutting off the supply of love that God would send to them through us.
So, how do we know if we need to shed some things? We’re quite often blind to our own faults or habits. We need a good mirror, we need someone to tell us the truth. Scripture will do that for us, if we allow it to. Rather than becoming the judge of the Scripture, deciding it’s ‘too legalistic’, maybe we just need to let it rub us the wrong way so we can shed the things that would harm us or others. The Beatitudes in Matthew, chapters 5-7 are a pretty good mirror.
If you need some help with this, or just want to talk or pray with someone, find a pastor or priest. They can help you shed the things that will ultimately harm you, so you’re a fresh new shining example of Jesus!