A lesson from a snake

October 3, 2011

I am not a fan of snakes…never have been…probably never will be.  It probably goes back to the baby rattle snake in my boot on the porch at my grandparent’s farm that my older brother saved me from or the cotton mouth that snapped at me and my younger brother, also at my grandparent’s farm.  There is just something about them that makes me nervous.

A few weeks ago, I captured a picture of this non-venomous water snake while at one of my favorite places in Georgia– Amicalola falls.  As I stood staring at the beautiful water fall, I looked down on the rocks below and saw him slithering.  My first thought was, “Run!”.  However, as I watched him, from a safe distance on the bridge, moving gracefully on the rocks he made me stop, pause, and think about life. 

The snake’s presence, in that moment, perturbed me because he was “ruining” my moment–ruining my good feeling.  I did not want to be focusing on him, rather, on the tumbling water above me.  I felt he did not belong, but he was there in all of his slithering glory distracting me from what really mattered.  How often does this happen to us in life, though?  When something that we are afraid of or bothered by no matter how big or small suddenly takes our attention away from our priorities? 

The snake reminded me that there will always be something in our lives that slithers into our lives that we may not want to be there– a sudden change in direction, an unexpected responsibility, a reminder of our hurtful past.  When those things come into our lives, though, we have two choices.  We can focus only on the negative OR we can keep our eyes on what matters most, acknowledging that things, like a snake, will appear, but need not consume our full attention.

After giving this little guy way more attention than he deserved, I decided that looking up would bring me more life than standing there stressing over which direction he was going to move.  His presence was soon forgotten as I absorbed this instead:

When unexpected things come into your life that you do not want there, how do you keep them from consuming your full attention?

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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