This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of speaking at University Presbyterian Church, a PC(USA) congregation here in San Antonio, about my service as a Young Adult Volunteer and DOOR Dweller. For your enjoyment, here’s a loose version of what I presented:
This past Saturday, a few of the other YAVs and I headed south of San Antonio to attend a festival celebrating American Indians and indigenous peoples of Mexico. To get there, we took a route that devolved from Interstate highway to a muddy goat path. After we liberated our car from the muck, we feasted on fire-roasted rabbit and tried tacos filled with cacti (nopales) and the Aztec delicacy cuitlacoche (corn fungus—tastier than it may sound!).
Peering into clear plastic boxes at one booth, we could see a couple dozen varieties of snakes, including the most venomous snake in North America, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. On the other side of the display, nestled near a baby alligator (only two feet long!) and a Gila monster, were a few royal (ball) pythons. These nonvenomous snakes, popular as pets, received their names both because African rulers would wear the snakes as jewelry and because the animals curl into balls when frightened.
I became rather close friends with one of these royal pythons when the snake, wanting to get out of the rain, slithered out of my hands and inside my rain jacket! It adventured across my shoulders, over the back of my neck (occasionally licking me with its forked tongue), and down the (outside) front of my shirt before finding a cozy nook where it could stay warm while watching the world go by. It never bit or threatened me; indeed, when another YAV tried petting its head gently, the python recoiled into a ball, preferring to remain hunkered down in my clasped hands. That fun experience allowed me to meet the snake hands-on while learning not to fear it.
My reptilian encounter may make some people squirm or feel uncomfortable. While not every YAV will meet a snake during his or her service, we all are called to be uncomfortable this year in order to learn from God, those around us, and ourselves. I live in a small house with six other people who mostly were strangers to me two months ago. I moved to an unfamiliar city and region, and in my neighborhood I’m one of a few Anglos in a sea of Latinos. I’m working in an immigration law office, a field that’s new to me. In order to finance my service, I’m fundraising at least $3,000.
Yet, just as the snake didn’t harm me, but surprised me with its friendliness and gentleness, so too God is opening me, teaching me to trust in Him as I make my way forward in this new life. I don’t know what is around the corner, yet I trust that God will make a clear path for me so that I may do His will while expanding my horizon and discovering more about Him, this world, and me every day.
Matt, This is a really nice blog! I love the theological lesson you drew from this cuddly reptile. Love, Dad
Matt, I just took another look at all of your blog posts. They’re quite a series – 4 imaginative pieces in 6 weeks. You’re off to a flying start in the virtual world! LOL, Dad