Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snakes in Lent

"He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan*. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him." -- Mark 1

*snakes are linked to Satan in the Bible (see Genesis 3 and Revelation for starters); however, they are also an instrument of God's power and healing and good

I've seen two snakes this past week, three if you count the one I think I saw, out of the corner of my eye, in the tangled bed of rhododendrons, ferns, and dry leaves by the house.

The first one Wayne & I saw at dusk, along the path down the hill. We thought it was alive, until we noticed it was upside down, and had a slit on its throat. Did a dog kill it, or one of the dozens of cats roaming the area? Had a gardener noticed it and hacked it with his hoe?

Snakes aren't bad, you know, unless they are. And how exactly do you tell them apart, the harmless mosquito or rodent eaters from the poisonous life extinguishers?

The second snake was half way down a crack in a rock on the side of the road, when he must have heard me coming, and froze. I couldn't resist, I stood about two feet away, leaned over, and blew on his back to see if he would move. No. Was he dead too? I walked about five steps away, then tiptoed back. He was gone.

The third snake, if I did see it, was quick, and very near my house. Possibly hidden by the rhododendrons, now in glorious bloom.

Lent means spring and Spring has come to Hong Kong. Lush flowers, cleansing rains, and hidden dangers. In the warmth of the spring air, microscopic black flies attack my legs. Do I go inside or tough it out in the interest of enjoying the breeze? Big square beetle-like things crawl on the windows and deposit neat sets of pale green eggs on the screen. Do I watch & see what emerges, or simply sweep them away? I remember something C.S. Lewis once wrote:

"For the Supernatural, entering a human soul, opens to it new possibilities both of good and evil. From that point the road branches: one way to sanctity, love, humility, the other to spiritual pride, self-righteousness, prosecution zeal. And no way back to the mere humdrum virtues and vices of the unawakened soul. If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse." -- Reflections on the Psalms, 1958, p. 32

May the season of Lent find us "made better". And it's good to be wary of snakes, but not so wary that we fear the flowers.

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