Lent is a time of self-reflection as we prepare for Easter.
I believe the following Native American legend can help us reflect on the issue of temptation.
Many years ago, young men would go away in solitude to test themselves as a preparation for manhood. One young man hiked into a very beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers and beautiful sunshine. Then, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow.
“I will test myself against that mountain,” he thought. So he put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the rugged outcropping of rock. When he finally reached the top, he stood on the very rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride.
Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. “I am about to die,” said the snake. “It is too cold for me up here, and there is no food. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.”
“No,” said the youth. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me.”
“Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, I will not harm you.”
The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it down very gently. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leaped, biting him on the leg.
“But you promised,” cried the youth.
“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away.
That is a powerful little parable. Our snake could be drugs, or gambling, or pornography, or extramarital sex, or greed, or a gossiping tongue, or a host of other destructive attractions that challenge our good sense. The best protection we have is in avoidance. We need to flee temptation, or it may conquer us. What better time than Lent to address the issue of temptation in our lives.
— Rev. Stan Hughes is pastor at Tonganoxie United Methodist Church.