This weekend I went on a quick morning hike. The morning was cool, the desert mountain was inviting and very calm. My little dog and I trotted along enjoying the sunrise and views of the valley below as we climbed higher.
On our return down the mountain we ran into this beefy fellow.
We had walked right up to him without seeing him. I only knew of his presence when his rattle struck that distinctive sound.
I quickly put my dog on her leash, while locating the snake, and then gave her a command to stay back. The snake sat about six feet away, on the side of the road, well camouflaged – yet coiled and ready to strike.
Being familiar with rattlesnakes and their striking distance, I edged closer for a couple of pictures from a safe distance. He decided to retreat and I was happy to let him go on his merry way. The dog and I turned and headed back down the mountain, away from the snake. It was only a few brief moments, that ended with out incident, but it got me thinking.
On the way down I pondered how much rattlesnakes and sin are alike. I am sure I must have heard this in a conference talk or Sunday school lesson before, but I thought about it for a while and figured I’d share my version here.
Snakes and sin can be sneaky
Like the snake, sin is not always apparent. I did not see this snake until I looked. I wasn’t being unsafe, we were walking on the road, I wasn’t looking for snakes, I wasn’t expecting a snake. But it was there, it was hard to see, and it was still dangerous regardless of anything I was doing. Sin isn’t always obvious, it isn’t always something we searched out, it can appear at very unexpected times, and it can be dangerous regardless of our intent or original plans.
Snakes are patient, and so is Satan
The snake didn’t want to bite us. Rattlesnakes prefer to avoid encounters with other predators, and would rather preserve their venom for hunting purposes when they know they can make a killing strike. I fear that sometimes Satan plays the same game. Sometimes a sin, or a small dosage of sin, doesn’t hurt us enough to notice. Sometimes Satan wants us to just get close, or have a little taste. He preserves his ability to actually harm us until he is ready, until he feels that we are prey, ready to be taken. Then he strikes.
Rattlesnakes have warnings, and so do sins.
We’ve all been taught about the dangers of snakes and sin. We’ve all been warned. Regardless of those warnings and lessons we will all inevitably run into sin. But there is a second kind of warning that we need to pay even more attention too. Every warning I have been given about rattlesnakes, and every encounter I’ve had before, wouldn’t have made any difference if the snake hadn’t rattled. That moment of warning was crucial to us having a chance to avoid the snake.
Sins have rattles also. At the very least the Light of Christ helps us to know good from evil. But sins also come with many other kinds of rattles. Sometimes it is a feeling that we need to secure ourselves secretly before we proceed. Sometimes, it is looking over our shoulder to check for some unidentified presence before we take the next step. Sometimes it is the negative effects we have seen in others who have already traveled down the path of sin. Sometimes it’s just a feeling in our gut. Sometimes it is that moment when our natural side wants to proceed, but our spiritual side gives us a moment of hesitation. Other times it is that immediate loss of the Spirit as we begin to proceed to sin.
I suppose that, like feeling the Spirit, these sin-rattles are different for every person. Maybe even different for the specific situation we are in. But they are there. Sin does have a rattle. And if we are listening we can hear it’s warning.
I could take this story a lot further in comparing it to sin. I could talk about:
- The effects of snake venom and compare them to the effects of sin.
- How I put myself in more danger creeping closer to get a picture of the snake.
- How I didn’t try and control or even destroy the snake, I just put distance between me and it.
- My dog’s lack of experience and understanding compared to my own.
- How I protected the dog with a leash and a command.
- How I would have needed help to heal from the snake bite, how I would not have been able to heal myself, and how that it is the same with sin.
But much more than any of those, the though that “sins have rattles too” struck me as something we should be very aware of. Something that we should hone our spiritual ear too. Something that can help us live the life we desire . That one moment in which we hear the rattle of sin, is the moment we get to choose to walk away – or risk getting bit.