Of Dragons and Gauntlets
He walked in with an orange bearded dragon on his shoulder. The college-student stood at the coffee shop counter, ordering a pastry and a drink, and his lizard perched beside him.
Minutes later as he prepared to leave, two women in yoga pants and headbands approached him, their phones out.
“Is he real? Can we take a picture with you?”
I stood up, grabbing my phone too and idling closer.
The blonde-haired student assured us the reptile was real and handed him over to the woman in fleece.
“Oh? Me to hold him?” she asked shyly, “Will he bite?”
Persuaded, she let him place the two foot-long orange spiked lizard in her hands, the tail trailing up to her elbow.
He was a therapy lizard named Ivan, we learned. “He was brown when I got him, and only an inch and a half long.”
We exclaimed at the change, staring at the jeweled orange bearded dragon on the woman’s arm. “He’s my emotional support animal,” the man explained. “I chose him because colleges will let me keep him in the dorms.”
“Can I pet him?” I asked.
He agreed readily and I stroked the small dragon’s dry back, long tail, and spiny sides. “Hi baby, you’re beautiful,” I crooned to the bearded lizard.
“Many people choose soft and cuddly for emotional support animals, but I like his rough back,” the young man said, retrieving him from the turquoise woman, gently detangling a curved rear toe-nail from her sleeve and stroking the dragon’s back.
We listened and gushed, loving this chance to learn and experience. Thanking him, the women left and I did too. The young man was gracious, friendly, generous with his time and story. Pausing to balance the dragon, pastry and drink, he grabbed his keys and walked out the door.
“What a nice young man,” the navy shirted woman told her companion as she pulled out her green wooden chair again, beside her laptop.
I agreed silently, sitting at my own nearby table, and pulling out Bible and pen.
And I love how his brave transparency calls us to courageous conversations too. Turning pages to my next passage in the Bible, I see it — how God continues the conversation.
“O Lord, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you…
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds…” (Psalm 141:1,3-4a)
The verses continue, talking of the traps and bad choices we can fall into, and I remember bold words from an earlier lesson in Genesis 4. In Genesis chapter 4:6-7, God speaks it bluntly, throwing the gauntlet down before Cain. “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
I don’t know the traps around you, but I know our God. He is whispering them to you even now, and to me too.
I think of the dragon owner’s brave transparency and write bold words in my journal, examining these verses, talking to God, and listening long. I love that our God whispers back in the lull after the heavy truth hits. “...For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
And we can sense it: what God is warning us about, what he is pointing to, and the choice is before us. I love that he gives us the will — the motivation, the desire to obey. What a loving, humble, gentle God he is!
I choose You, God. I choose your face and your warnings. I choose to move away, to side-step the traps, to keep watch over my lips, mouth, eyes, actions, and life.
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