Monday, May 7, 2012

Snakes, Church, and How to Be Beautiful

Photo credits
A song on Sunday sent me into snake ponderings. 

The worship song surged around me in the church pew and I lifted my writhing three year old onto my hip. Unaccustomed to being with us in the service, he was a whirl of energy and motion. Hanging off the chair with one hand and shoulder draped off the edge, he had peered at the floor. Spinning over he cuddled onto his sister’s lap, squeezing her arms for a hug. A grey sandaled shoe jabbed into my side, and I quickly readjusted my shirt.

It wasn’t his writhings that turned my mind to snakes, though. The worship song that we stood and sung back to God said wonderingly,

You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.
You make me new, you are making me new.
You make me new, you are making me new.

My oldest son has an eighteen inch garter snake that he found and tamed. Now the snake often coils comfortably up my son’s arm as he walks the house, or hangs harmlessly around my seventeen year old’s neck as my son corrects his math problems.

“Did you know,” my dad said, “that a snake is nearly blind right before it sheds its skin? With eyes that are clouded, it is fearful and aggressive. Feeling vulnerable, it will often strike at the hand bringing it food too.”  

My son built a reptile habitat in a glass aquarium, with cedar wood chips and an overturned log.

In order to rid itself of the old skin that is constraining and hindering it, the snake has to be intentional. It can’t hole up in a safe corner with blinded eyes. Rather the snake has to purposely lean into the hard places between the log and the glass window, and push through the rough patches, intentionally poking into and through dark places. It’s the pressure and the pulling that tug off the dead to reveal beauty below.

We're standing in the pews and singing and I'm holding my three-year-old in my arms and he's writhing, and I picture my oldest’s newly-gleaming snake. Pearlescent emerald and gleaming amber striped down the snake’s back, leaving behind a faded, transparent wraith in the aquarium.  

I sang, You make things new, you are making me new...

You make beautiful things….

And I realize that it’s me that God has been pressing through the tight places, poking into the dark corners, and leaning me into the rough patches to tear off the old, revealing beauty below. 

How do we be beautiful? We lean into the rough places. We dare to walk with our Creator through the dark corners, through the tight spaces that'll pull off the old and make all things new.

You make beautiful things out of the dust
 you make beautiful things out of us 
Linking with Ann, Michelle, Shanda, and Emily.


Jennifer Dougan said...

All credit to the Gungor band and to Youtube for letting me use this song.


Michelle @ Changed By The Maker said...

Insightful and beautiful as always Jen, and I totally love this song! I'm still not wild about snakes though. Thanks for linking up with me today!

cabinart said...

Jennifer, that is a hard hard truth.

Houseofmills said...
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Houseofmills said...

I am going a little crazy this reading this blog. I have a huge thing about snakes. Ohhhh they gross me out.hahahha!

Houseofmills said...
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Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Michelle,

This song is powerful, isn't it?

(grinning) Sorry about the snake imagery for you and Liz (House of Mills).


Jennifer Dougan said...

Hi Cabinart/Jana,

Yes, I agree. A hard, hard truth. It's hard to lean into the rough.


Jennifer Dougan said...


Your comments submitted two times extra, it looks like?

Dolly@Soulstops said...

Oh, Jennifer, your post was a gift from God today as it affirmed how God has been having me go through the hard places & as I go to write about it...praying for His beauty to appear in both of is a difficult process...Blessings to you, Jennifer :)

Jennifer Dougan said...


I'm so glad that God used this in you today. Lean into those hard spaces, and against those rough places with Him, and with me too...


Brian Miller said...

nice...great song...and love how you wrapped it into the story of hte snake and his shedding of skin...another thought back to eustice as well in the dawntreader and his shedding of skin...making all things new...nice post...

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thank you, Brian. Yes, I thought of Eustace too but didn't know how many others would recognize his name. Thank you.


Lisa notes... said...

Oh, I know this is true, this needing to lean into the hard places. Sigh. I've been leaning into a hard place for a few months, and yes, I do see those glimpses of beauty and they are worth it. But the old skin hasn't left yet; God is still working on me. Thanks for the encouragement to not give up too soon...

Unknown said...

I find it so cool that God sends us notes in His creation, messages of truth that we can find...even in SNAKES!
Also I love that song. I think your posts are very well thought out, every time I come here I walk away with something to think about and ponder.

Mommy Emily said...

It’s the pressure and the pulling that tug off the dead to reveal beauty below.

wow. i love this friend. i would be honored if you'd let me share this piece at my eating disorder blog sometime? if so, can you email it to me? bless you. e.

Naomi said...

Jennifer...What a great visual of how God molds us into who He wants us to be, especially during those times of trials. Thank you for sharing this at WJIM this week.