Can You Love a Rattlesnake?

   Simeon and I encountered a rattlesnake the other day on our daily excursion. I did not hear it at first, I had my earphones in. Simeon drew my attention as he began to nudge me away from the edge of the road toward the center. I looked down and he was all bristled up, a ridge of hair on end ran from the top of his head to his tail. Then I saw it, curled there, head in the air alongside the road. I pulled my earphones out so I could hear as well … he was rattling!
   The only weapon I had was my cell phone and so I made the prudent decision not to try and beat the snake to death with my phone. But, maybe I was not meant to kill the snake, maybe it was to be a lesson in peace rather than violence. With that and with Simeon insisting on staying between me and the snake I tried a different tact.
   I decided to stand and watch the snake. I tried to move from fear to respect. After all, in some sense the snake meant me no harm, had he meant harm he would not have warned us that he was there, he would have just struck! His rattle was a warning which said, “I am here! Please do not step on me, but if you do you will probably be sorry!”
   I decided to try and get my head around the difference between fear and love. We are told that in love there is no fear and so I stood there in the road and tried to practice what I preach. I stood a safe distance away, all the while Simeon standing guard, staying between me and the snake regardless of where I positioned myself.
   Maybe I needed to take my cue from Simeon, he did not try to attack the snake, and he leaned hard into my leg keeping himself between me and the problem. If I were to try and read Simeon’s mind, I would say he had a healthy respect for the snake but appeared to have no intention of taking the snake on, he was intent on keeping us a safe distance from the rattle.
   As we watched the rattler decide we were no threat and slither his way back into the wheat field, there was a sense of awe and respect that washed over me, a sense of being in the presence of one of God’s creatures, and knowing respect and not fear. I suspect, as he went out of sight, all three of us were relieved.
   I wondered, how many of God’s creatures as well as all of God’s children I react to out of fear rather than love, and in my ponderings I think what a world this would be if love were the common practice and fear was indeed cast out.
   I pray this week you ponder that which you fear and wonder how love might help move us all to a different place in our faith and lives.

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