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Teaching Encounters of the First Kind

It is widely acknowledged that true Christianity is not a Sunday morning religion but a 24/7 relationship and way of life. Similarly teaching is not limited to the classroom or even the campus.

Tonight I was hand watering some planters on my front porch when one of the neighbor kids walked by. We said hi to each other and he commented about a snake he’d been looking at. He went to his buddy’s house to take him to see the snake. They are normal boys after all. After I finished watering, I decided to wander over to see the excitement.

It was dead. Apparently it made the mistake of curling up on the front step of the neighbor’s house, where upon discovery, it met Madame Guillotine in the form of a shovel, then shoveled unceremoniously into the yard.

The kids gathered asked me what kind of snake it was and why its mouth still opened and shut and the body still moved. It was a dark or nearly black snake with a rounded head rather than triangular and yellowish underbelly, so I said it was probably a good kind of snake that ate varmints and rattlers. That said, being on the front step is not healthy for a snake no matter how good it may be at keeping down pests. They were impressed that it probably ate rattlesnakes yet wasn’t venomous.

It was moving so much because, even though it was dead, its nervous system was still slowly discharging its neurons. It was about three feet long, so there were probably still a lot of ganglia (mini-brainlike clusters of neurons along a snake’s spine) that didn’t fully realize Central Command had been taken out. They thought that was cool but still creepy. I agreed.

I left them to their continued respectful and awed perusal. It is interesting how even the grotesque aspects of nature and biology have such a fascination for us, and how there is order even in death and decay. There are certainly lessons in it, and maybe, just possibly, purpose.


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