“The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.” Numbers 21:7 (NRSV)
I want to be crystal clear: I do not like snakes. And please save yourself the time and effort of writing me an email to tell me how wonderfully helpful snakes are to our environment. I know that in my heart but they still make my body cringe.
My home backs up to a preserve, so I have to deal with a fair number of them around the outside of my house. Recently when my Chocolate Labrador, Max, and I bounded out of my front door for our morning walk, my phone would not connect to my headphones. I always have a book or two going and enjoy listening to one on my walks, so I was frustrated and paying attention to my Bluetooth settings and not to Max. Suddenly I watched Max jump about three feet straight off the ground. And as I looked to see what was wrong, I saw what I believe to be a pantherophis obsoletus slither away. I saw a black rat snake. Perfectly harmless, non-venomous, and gross. And yes, they are good for ecological balance and ultimately the “kind of snake that I want around my house” (or at least that is what my father tells me). But it still takes a lot of convincing.
A day or two later, though, I saw something fascinating in that same flower bed. There was a snakeskin that had been shed. Suddenly I was envious of that black rat snake. There is something almost magical about getting to start completely over, is there not? There is something about shedding everything from the past and saying: “I start fresh from this point on.”
I feel like our nation is at a point where we need to shed so much right now. Our racism, our pandemic, our greedy ways, and our desire to make it all about us. Maybe 2020 is the year that we shed all of that, start fresh, and move forward ready to make everything new again.
Rev. Dr. Dawson B. Taylor
For children who suffer with Coronavirus:
Loving God, help me to shed the things that weigh me down. Amen.