Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I have still been cogitating over the readings for the past Sunday--particularly Sirach 10:12-18 and Luke 14:1, 7-14. It's all about swallowing one's pride. What I found interesting is that the reading in Sirach focused on the beginning of pride. Although I am well seasoned in the concept that "pride is a real problem", I had not thought much about the beginning of pride--that moment when you let pride sit in the driver's seat. Sirach 10:12 says "The beginning of pride is to forsake the Lord, the heart has withdrawn from its Maker."

We all know that moment when pride takes the wheel. Maybe someone said just the right (or wrong) thing, and you feel that little warrior inside of you go, "AAARRGGGHHH!" and you puff up like a hognose snake.

Those of you not from the Midwest may not have an appreciation of hognose snakes. My grandmother's generation called them "puff adders." A hognose snake has two responses to a threat. Its first response is to puff up to twice its size, hiss and spit, strike, and put on quite a show. But despite the nickname, it is not a poisonous snake nor is it in the adder family. It can only bite in the manner of the more benign snakes. It only has the small row of teeth common to non-poisonous snakes with the addition of "rear fangs." These rear fangs do not contain classical venom but can secrete a mildly toxic substance--however it only appears to be of use against smaller prey. In short, they puff up because they are vulnerable.

Hmmm, there's a many times to we puff up because we are vulnerable? Not only do we hiss and spit when threatened, we might puff up with our accomplishments, we might puff up with an image of ourselves that make us feel better, we call attention to our strengths to hide our inadequacies. We tell slightly spun versions of the truth to make our inequities more benign. We point to our past accomplishments to hide the fact the present scares us.

If you are playing with a hognose snake, this can be quite fun. You take a stick and poke at it and watch it puff up and carry on in a most amusing fashion. You'd think it was a cobra, the way it acts. But, if that tactic doesn't work, a hognose snake has another trick in its arsenal. It rolls on its back and plays dead, in the hopes its tormentor doesn't like dead prey. Not only plays dead but often poops on itself and emits a musky, nasty odor. Sometimes it even sticks out its tongue like it was dead. If you flip the snake back on its belly, it will flop back over on it's back just to prove to you it's dead.

Again, let's extrapolate this. When our hissing and spitting doesn't make the threat go away, it is often our tendency to blame ourselves. We shrink back, shut down, opt out, go off in the corner, drink too much, withhold sex, or become unreasonably contrite, saying "I'm sorry" for anything and everything, even if it is not of our making. We will prove to you we are "dead" (or in this case "bad") by hitting ourselves with a stick and berating ourselves for being such a "sinful being." These are all substitutes for honest atonement. In other words, we tend to substitute mea culpa drama for the real thing.

This all plays out starting at the moment we ignore God's ability to lead and direct us--the beginning of pride. Of course, hognose snakes act totally on instinct and can't be changed. Humans, however, can choose to "not go there." This can sometimes be hard to do, but it can be done. We can choose to step back three steps from our instinct and take in the situation...but doing this is work. Work we often simply choose not to do.

I just hope I can follow my own advice in this regard.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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