“Whoever is able to cast off his skin shall not die.”
Parable of the Dusuns of North Borneo
When my sons were young, we lived for about three years in a rural area of Shelby County, Alabama. There was a small pond on the property, which attracted wildlife in abundance—deer, raccoon, coyote, possum, beaver, wild turkey, wading birds and, of course, snakes galore. Every kind of snake, from the most poisonous to the least, inhabited “our” property. We found snake skins everywhere—some six inches long, some six feet. Snakes, when they are young and growing, shed their skins as often as every two weeks, and fully grown snakes, at least twice a year—so there were lots of snake skins in Shelby County. My sons made a collection.
Watching a snake shedding its skin is quite interesting. It's not easy; their skin doesn't just slip off like a stocking. It's work; you could even call it a struggle. And, it takes a while, sometimes as much as a week. Their eyes cloud over, so they can't see very well; their colors become drab, and their skin begins to look a little loose and ratty. That's because it is no longer alive; the old skin is dead. The snake has to rub itself on something hard, like a branch or a rock, to tear the skin so they can begin to wiggle out of it. Right about now, you may be wondering what in the world snakes shedding their skins has to do with human spirituality. And you would be right to wonder such a thing. Shedding is necessary for a snake; without it they cannot grow. Humans are the same.
The sorts of things humans have to shed are a bit different, though we do shed skin—all the time, every day. But mostly, we have to shed outmoded ideas; the ones that hold us back, that make us feel dead inside. Ideas that we are less than others, that we are unworthy, that we have nothing to offer. On the other hand, some of us need to shed notions of grandiosity—that we are somehow better than others. As Yogi the Bear would say, “I'm smarter than the average bear!” Actually, no, we aren't. You'll know it's time to shed when you hear yourself say things like, “But we've always done it this way!” or “That's NOT the right way to do it!” or, “Don't associate with them! What will people say!” Change is sometimes a struggle. Like shedding, it takes time and work, but dead ideas are just as limiting as dead skin. To stay alive, you have to wiggle out of them any way you can.
In the Spirit,