I was hiking on the trails and found a shed snake skin. I had never seen one up close before and found it fascinating, so I brought it home to show my kids.
I'm always looking for a lesson to help me understand something about the Lord or our spiritual walk in a more tangible way.
As I looked at that snake, I wondered if we could be compared to a shedding snake. Snakes don't stop growing until death, and in order to accommodate growth, they shed off old skin many times throughout their lives in a process called ecdysis.
In order to grow spiritually, there are things we need to shed - bad habits, jealousy, pride, deceit, unforgiveness, just to name a few.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).
The head portion on the snake's skin was perfectly preserved and I could see exactly where the eyes and mouth would have been. It looked like there had been a thin membrane over each eye.
Snakes need to shed the old skin off their eyes, because if any portion gets stuck and is not removed from the eye cap, it can cause blindness.
Perhaps we are also like the snake in that if some old portion of what we need to get rid of ends up sticking, it can cause blindness.
Jesus referred to the religious leaders in His day as blind guides (Matthew 15, 23). They were boastful, making rules and regulations and thinking themselves very wise, when in reality they were leading people astray.
Are we just as hypocritical and skilled at pointing out things someone else should be doing in order to live a more faithful life, all the while failing to notice similar faults in ourselves? Pointing out the splinter in someone else's eye while blind to the log in our own?
I'm not a big fan of snakes (hence the reason that skin was draped over a long stick while I carried it home for 2 miles) and I am not fond of being compared to a snake, either.
So it was encouraging to realize there are also ways we should not be like a shedding snake. Snakes shed because they are growing bigger. As we follow Christ and His presence increases in our lives, we ought to be getting "smaller," not bigger. "He must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30).
Jesus talked about a narrow gate in Matthew 7:13-14: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Entrance into the kingdom of God requires change, but a snake that sheds off its outer layer because it is growing bigger will never fit through a narrow opening.
As Jesus says, only a few find the narrow gate and narrow road. He told the rich young man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor in order to have treasure in heaven (Mark 10:21).
If you have too much "stuff," whether that means tangible things or otherwise, you'll be too big to fit.
After a snake sheds its skin, it is still a snake. If we are truly following Jesus, we can't stay the same. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17: "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
It's time to do some shedding. And some growing while decreasing. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.