On one particularly wonderful afternoon, as I was pedaling around on my bicycle, I zoomed by a residential area when I spotted what I thought was a yard sale. Never one to miss a good bargain, I turned my bright orange ten-speed around to head over there and see what I could see.
To my dismay, it was not a yard sale. But as I pedaled a little closer, I could see rows and rows of glass aquariums spread out across someone’s front lawn.
There was a small crowd already mulling around the aquariums, so I parked my bike and walked up the driveway to see what was going on. As I headed that way, I could hear shrill voices and shrieks of fright. What in the world is going on, I thought.
People were crowded around a fellow (who looked quite normal) giving a lecture on the items in the glass cages as if he were a scientist. Using big words, and waving his hands in great sweeping flourishes like Vanna White at the Wheel of Fortune, he was well aware that he had a captive audience before him.
Everyone stood in rapt attention, clinging to his every word. I just had to see what was so interesting, so I scooted my way around the crowd, pushing through to see what was there. I finally pushed aside enough people to get a clear look at what the cages held. My jaw dropped in awe at the sight of them.
The glass cages were full of the biggest, ugliest things I’d ever seen in the form of snakes. These weren’t just your friendly garden-variety snakes, either. Every single cage held a Western Diamondback Rattler.
Kind of riled up by all of the attention they were getting, many of them were at full throttle with the rattles. Some were making useless strikes at the sides of their cages.
I heard someone ask the man who was lecturing, “So, what are these?”
He answered them, “These are my pets.”
Now, perhaps that was just a bit too much to fathom for a transplanted farm girl like myself.
After all, I had been taught that some snakes were necessary evils, taking care of the rats and all in the silos. There were other snakes that I knew were my competition for the swollen ripe blackberries in the early October mornings. But those snakes didn’t fight with me; they just wanted to have homemade blackberry jam as much as I did. Those snakes would run away from me.
But, there were other snakes that we knew as our enemy. If you saw one of those, you were to avoid them quickly, thoroughly, and immediately; you were to never consider bringing one home as a pet.
Now here I stood with a fellow that’s bragging about his “pets”, these Diamondback rattlers. Taking a good look at those ugly critters, I couldn’t imagine getting a warm fuzzy feeling from them at all…unless they were digesting me, of course.
So I stood there like some kind of nut, listening to another nut talk about how he loved these killer snakes the way he would love children. I wanted to stop him and ask if he’d ever had any but the snakes ate them, but I didn’t stop him. He was on a roll.
He went on to say that he would never, ever de-venomize his snakes because it wouldn’t be fair if one got out and was out in the world without a way to defend itself. I kept thinking how unfair it would be for one of his neighbor’s children to die from being unable to defend themselves from a vicious rattlesnake bite.
The crowd began to buy into his story, thinking him a man with a precious love for his deadly pets. I began to think of this man as sorely deceived in his thinking.
But that’s when I realized how much he and his snakes were like me and my favorite sin.
My favorite sin is ugly (hideous really) and stays only in my life for the sole purpose of striking out at me, to kill me the first chance it gets.
And the thing is, I’m dumb enough to nurture it, feed it, and display it with pride, and call it my pet.
Forgive me, Father.
James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my dear brothers.