Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.
Full disclosure, I like snakes. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but here we are. It’s not only snakes that I like, I have a special place in my heart for all God’s creatures. (With the exception of flies and cockroaches, of course. I guess you could say I’m a work in progress.) I could go on and on about the benefits that snakes have on the ecosystem, or about the positive impact they have on human health by keeping rats, mice, and their diseases as bay. I could go even further by talking about how relatively harmless they are, at least to those of us who live in North America. But I’m sure that there are already countless articles about that, so I’ll just leave it at this: I think snakes are fascinating. Whenever I go on a hike or walk my dogs, I’m constantly keeping an eye out for deer or snakes. I’m always hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic and graceful deer, or spy a snake sunning himself on a rock or log. Sometimes I see one. Usually I don’t. However, if I wasn’t continually keeping my eyes and ears peeled for these wonderful animals, I would seldom see one at all.
I always wonder how many are in the vicinity that I don’t see, concealed behind foliage or hidden within the grass. I could pass by them every day and not even know it. That’s how it tends to be in life. We usually miss out on things simply by not paying attention. This is a shame; when we’re too busy looking at our smart phones, or caught up in ourselves; we can miss the beauty of a sunset, a flower, or even a particularly pretty leaf. Life is filled with beauty in many forms that we will find if only we look for it. Just this summer, I was walking my dogs and passed by a log where I had previously seen a little garter snake. Because I saw a snake there before, I always make it a point to look there every time I pass. Well, I didn’t see a snake that day, instead I saw an infant fawn curled up asleep beside the log. She was so innocent and beautiful that it took my breath away. I never would have seen her had I not casually glanced over to see if a snake was there. I can't help but think of all the people who passed her by that day, totally oblivious to what they missed.
The infant fawn
We’re surrounded by beauty
I love the beauty of the natural world. There is so much in life that is pleasing to the eye and other senses, visible to all, if only we look for it. Nature isn’t the only thing in life that is filled with hidden beauty. People are too. So many people are around us every single day, they’re made in God’s own image; unique and special. Some have extraordinary talent, or the gift of generosity and mercy. Some are the most open and kind people you’ll ever meet. Others bury their kindness and only need someone to help dig it out, but the goodness is there just the same. Just like that little fawn in the second paragraph, it's worth looking off the beaten path to see it. If we look for the good in people, we’ll find it.
It’s always a good idea to see the positive things in this world, but there are somethings in life that we don’t need to look for. I mentioned above that I don’t like cockroaches. Well, I wasn’t kidding. I really don’t like them. I know that, like all God’s creatures, they too, have a purpose. In nature they help break down organic decaying matter, and they release nitrogen into the soil which is good for plants. Yet even knowing that they’re beneficial doesn’t help me to like them more. Lord, help me to try to see the beauty in them. Because I don’t like them, I can spot them a mile away. I can see one walking in the grass 20ft away from me, and that’s not an exaggeration. I catch their movement out of the corner of my eye, or see them scurry under something. I don’t want to see them, mind you, but because of my repulsion I spot them everywhere.
The search for faults
It’s a little too easy to see the things we don’t like. They jump out at us and make themselves known. Unfortunately, this trend extends beyond creepy -crawlies. We can sometimes be a little too quick to see negative traits in our fellow man. We tend to judge ourselves by what we intend to do or what we meant to say. This causes us to view ourselves in a pretty positive light. After all, we meant to drop those canned goods off at the homeless shelter, we just haven’t done it yet. Sure, that person got offended by my words, but I didn’t mean it that way, they just took it wrong. This makes it easy for us to excuse our behavior. A homeless mother and her children may go hungry, but we wanted to drop off the food for them. Our friend felt bad by what we said, but we didn’t mean to hurt them.
If we used that same yardstick on others, it might be okay. Unfortunately, we tend to be less forgiving of others than we are of ourselves. We judge others by their actions; our selfish coworker didn’t donate a single canned good to the food drive. How stingy can that jerk be? That neighbor was so rude the other day, I can’t believe she said that. We could always give others the same benefit of the doubt that we extend to ourselves. We could always judges others by their good intentions and ourselves by our deeds. Why don’t we? Why do we look for the bad in people, instead of the good? Car keys don’t stay missing for long. We’ve all eventually found that misplaced cellphone. As a general rule of thumb, we tend to find that which we seek. If we’re looking for malice, selfishness, greed, envy, laziness, gluttony, or other faults in people, then those are the very traits that we'll find.
© 2017 Anna Watson