I found a fully shed skin from a snake recently. It was a rather ghostly object lying on the ground. I have found a snake’s skin before, but it wasn’t whole. This is the first one I have found that literally looks like a snake—it has a mouth and eye holes. I can picture its inhabitant very easily.
The skin also tells a story of not just a previous occupant, but what a struggle it was to release this skin. The skin is twisted, like a loose corkscrew. It tells that the inhabitant had to struggle to shed this skin. It had grown too small for the snake and at some point, the shedding began.
It must have taken awhile, and how vulnerable a snake must be while the process is underway. As the snake is twisting and turning, and the skin is slowly coming off, the snake is most likely not able to defend itself. A snake’s usual method of defense is a quick retreat under the bushes. Or, if it has no easy cover to take refuge under, it coils and strikes.
But a snake shedding its skin probably can’t do either, and must patiently await the moment when it can slither away from its previous covering—larger and older and now ready to face the world. A Scripture comes to mind here—look at 2 Corinthians 5:17-22:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Interesting, isn’t it? When we accept Jesus into our heart, He is in the business of making us new: new attitudes, new heart and new desires. Of course, the old person is still there, but we are slowly being made into the image of Christ: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29) In order to be conformed into the image of His Son, we have some serious shedding to do.
We find the skin we’re in too tight after a while: we can’t move forward to those areas that He is calling us to. Then the shedding begins and once we leave certain attitudes, desires and behaviors behind, we find this new skin gives us freedom to love and serve Him.
But just as the snake must shed its skin many times over its lifetime, so must we shed our skins periodically, to grow in Him and become ambassadors for Him, to be part of the reconciliation process that He is offering to the world. Reconciliation occurs first between us and God, and then reconciliation takes place between us and others.
But just as the skin I found shows a struggle, our conforming into His image is not an easy or quick process. He gives us the strength , but we must have the will to endure the twisting and turning. I couldn’t stand there and just tear the skin away from the snake—I would injure it. Part of the shedding process is exertion and it makes the snake stronger.
It is challenging to exert control over our wills to move away from those things that impede our walk with Christ. Paul likens it to a race: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-4).
But Christ is faithful to the process: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).
Once we leave our “skin” behind, we need not return to it. It no longer fits, and we know that He is faithful to us. The snake was no where to be found when I found its old skin. And why would it? It was free. So, too are we: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).
Don’t be discouraged by life’s trials: maybe your “skin” is getting too small and freedom is just ahead!
Lord of All: My “skin” is too small—I know this because I don’t have the freedom I long for in You. Help me to be patient, and accept the twists and turns as old skin tears away. Let me realize that beauty lies beneath, and that You will “provide for those who grieve...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3). In His Name Who is sufficient for me, amen.