This gruesome story is not for the weak-stomached, but the analogy was too appropriate
I cut off its head.
Well, not quite, but I came close. The snake was still moving so much after I tried, my father-in-law quickly took the spade from my hands and gave it another whack.
The intruder was in my garage – where my children and dog would be within seconds, so I needed to act fast, and unfortunately, that didn’t allow time for Google-searching, “serpent identification.” I just chopped.
Even after the blow from my father-in-law, the snake’s body continued to vigorously writhe while the head lay inches away. Back and forth, the snake’s body thrashed, as if trying to escape, but getting nowhere. It rolled over; it serpentined without forward motion; it slowed, and then careened. At one point, the decapitated body tied itself into an intricate knot, and then untied again. It took over twenty LONG minutes for the creature to stop its movement. (I couldn’t watch – but I did return after a few minutes, and could hardly believe its body still moved.)
As gruesome as the picture was, I would have done it again if I were presented the same situation: kids, dog, and snake.
Why would a dead body continue moving like that? I wondered at the ugliness of it all. My father, a farmer to the core, has told stories of chickens running with their heads cut off. (It’s not just a saying; it really happens!) I even had a fish jump off of the cleaning table one time with an entire half of its body already filleted!…but that is another story altogether.
The snake, often likened to sin due to the devil taking the shape of a serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), reminded me of sin even in the way it died:
- We cut off the head.
- The body writhes, starved of sustenance,
- …until it dies.
Bad habits die the same way: we say we won’t do it. Our body rebels, writhing loudly for minutes, days, or months, but if we starve it …it dies.
I distinctly remember a time when I enjoyed an outlet of letting off negative steam. There was a group of ladies complaining, and I joined them. It quickly became a habit. The more they laughed about the negative way I portrayed the day, my boss, some other girl, or even my husband (gasp!), the more fun I had talking negatively and trumping their stories.
Sarcasm oozed from my mouth on Monday mornings. Grumbling had become a main dish I served. Eventually, there came a day when I didn’t like the gloomy, complaining outlook I could paint on any day or situation– all in the name of humor. I didn’t want to be the negative, slandering person I had become. I was far from “edifying and lifting others up.” (1Thess 5:11) Often a little too close to gossip, I decided I needed to stop. I made the first chop at the sinful snake’s head.
A snake is hard to kill! A friend once told me that for Lent, she was giving up criticizing, condemning and complaining. Three days in, she said, “I am never going to make it! I can’t think of anything to say!”
Her story is funny, but I tell you that when I decided to stop my negativity, only a day went by before someone said something bad about someone and I chimed in perfectly negative unison with her.
The body of the snake was still thrashing. Had I really disconnected its head?
I began controlling the action of talking – biting my tongue, so to speak. I didn’t SAY the negative, but the could-be-words played in my head, and the guilt felt the same.
The body of the snake was still jerking. I asked for forgiveness.
The best way to avoid accidentally expressing a negative opinion of someone is not to have it. Through prayer, I tried to replace the thoughts with more God-honoring ones. (Phil 4:8) Slowly the negativity subsided. The snake stopped moving. I was able to walk away from negative conversations without joining, or even thinking of what I could have said. I am not perfect – and will not be until eternity. I want to be, but to my dismay, the snake’s body still quivers all too often. Change takes time.
My 12-yr-old recently told me he had been trying to get rid of something in his own life. It’s not important what it was, but it IS important what he said: “Mom, I just realized the reason I couldn’t stop doing it is because I was trying to do it alone instead of depending on God to help me.” He didn’t know that he had ministered to me that day.
I told my oldest (15-yr-old) one morning that I was thinking of writing a blog about the snake in our garage and I asked how he thought the snake paralleled sin. He quickly said, “If you don’t kill the snake in the garage, it will grow up and have babies all over the house.” Wow. It is as though he knew James 1:15: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Maybe the Apostle Paul was talking about the twitches of the dead snake when he said that he had discovered this principle of life–that when he wanted to do what was right, he inevitably did what is wrong. (Romans 7:21)
But my 12-yr-old had great advice for the battle: in Christ, the snake’s head is cut off! So don’t lose heart: in Christ, you win. With Him, all things are possible. (Phil 4:13)
“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.” (Rom 6:6)
Whether the snake is:
- pessimistic thinking,
- self-destructive habits,
- lack of emotional control,
- lack of self-control
- complaining or any other variety of the species,
CHOP OFF THE HEAD!
Change takes time, but the victory awaits!
- Identify the problem. Chop off the snake’s head!
- When you get a twitch of the old self, all is not lost. It is a dying body. Apologize and stay focused on where you are headed.
- The only way the sin will be dead is when we trust God to be our new head. You can, because He can!
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Keeping my spade in hand,
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” –Socrates (through Kristin Schill on Twitter)
“God created the world out of nothing, & as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.” – Martin Luther (through Laurie Woodward on Twitter)