This isn’t the beginning of a Harry Potter type of story. This isn’t fantasy.
With my oldest daughter’s family away for ten days, we became caretakers of a big lizard. A reptile that looks gruesome enough to make me flinch every time I have to feed him.
His name is Spikes.
I’m not a fan of reptilian pets. We had an iguana at one point. My son’s pet. At the time it seemed right because, with five sisters, it was such a guy thing to have a lizard. And unlike most other families who’d tried to raise iguanas, ours grew to well over three feet.
A reminder from the gentleman who sold him to us: big body, very tiny brain. Can’t train these buggers. Can’t even get them to remember who you are from one day to the next. That’s a small brain.
Being in a caretaker role, there is an expectation that Spikes will be fed during his stay. That his cage will be cleaned. That he’ll receive fresh water when needed.
It doesn’t take them long, however, to wake and wiggle. Pulling them out of the jar, they begin to squirm in my fingers. Either smart enough to anticipate their own demise or not caring at all and this is just an involuntary response.
It doesn’t matter why they move. It’s gross that the lizard only eats them alive. My empathetic self can hear their tiny, wormy voices screaming for mercy as Spikes’ long tongue snatches them up. Swallows and blinks.
It’s the only parts of him I’ve really seen moving.
I’m more than a little nervous to stick my hand in there to retrieve his water dish. Or clean up his minor messes. He may mistake my fingers for fat worms.
I know I’m bigger, but the idea of that long tongue or whatever else is in his mouth coming in contact with my skin is a little revolting.
Spikes reminds me of some of the people in my life that are a little prickly. Folks I hesitate to get close to because I’m not sure how I’ll be received. People who intimidate me because of who they are.
Different from me.
I’m a friendly sort. Can talk to almost anyone. But there will always be people in my life who aren’t easy for me. Folks that think so differently from me that I can’t find common ground. Whose story is varied enough that I have to think carefully how to respond.
Jesus had a great way of viewing people.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interest, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:3-4
If I’m always thinking of me first, I’ll never have the energy to really listen to others different from me. I need to be willing to take a step towards challenging people. Make the effort. Engage with others intentionally, because we all have value.
Without being afraid of being bitten.