Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Snake skin: an unexpected spiritual metaphor

While on my run on Monday, I found this snake skin lying in the grass alongside the trail. I was impressed by its size (4 feet long), and I had never seen a snake skin so fresh. It was soft & pliable, and even still a little wet even though it was lying in the sun. Though the snake must have been there just minutes before, I didn’t see the snake anywhere nearby so I lingered a bit to investigate.

It was remarkable how, at first glance, an empty shell looked like it was the actual snake that the skin had come from. (At that time it was not yet dry and wrinkly, so still held the form of the intact snake.) And yet, though it still looked like a snake and was at one time the most visible part of the snake, although it still had many of the external features of a snake, the skin itself was definitely not an actual snake. (Thank God! I don’t want to meet a 4-foot snake on the trail, thankyouverymuch.)

As I continued on my run, I meditated on this idea of empty shells and true life. I see the Christian life in that snake. The phrase “put off the former things” reverberated in my mind.
22 … in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24
I “lay aside the old self” like the snake sheds its skin. There are ways of life, habits of behavior, and patterns of thinking that I once identified as central and essential to my identity. This old self is visible in the “skin”, the way I externally present myself in the world, but it comes from within. The skin grows out of who I am on the inside.

But, like a snake, the skin I once wore it doesn’t fit me anymore. A snake molts because its skin cannot grow.1 New growth requires that the snake “lay aside the old self”. If the old skin is not removed, blood flow is constricted and growth is hindered.

Are you constricted by the skin you’re in? Are you letting the old self of who you once were set limits on your growth? Do you look to the “skin” of what people see when they look at you to determine your sense of identity? What do you need to put off in order to allow for growth?

Next post (tomorrow?) I want to talk about more parallels to spiritual growth that I see in this snakeskin. It’s weird, I know. Snakes are not something I normally think of as a spiritual metaphor for anything other than temptation. But it’s amazing how God created the world in such a way that as we look around in nature, we can see glimpses of His character and the ways of His Kingdom reflected all around us. 

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