The other day I had a mental picture of a snake slipping out of its old skin, leaving it behind when it was no longer useful. I don't have any idea why this image came to me, but immediately I recognized it as a good life metaphor.
We all go through periods of intense change, followed by seasons when life is relatively calm and easy. I wonder if the snake struggles to shed the old skin or if it's a natural process which causes no stress? I am not likely to discover an answer to that question, but for me it can be deeply challenging to let go of the old.
I prefer what is familiar to what is unknown. Most humans do. But a snake holding onto multiple layers of old skin seems like an exercise in futility. It would hold the snake back, impeding its sense of forward motion, and end up as dead weight for it to drag around.
Moving on is difficult. We end up with multiple "what if" scenarios where we worry that we could be on the wrong path or that the old skin may yet serve us in some way. One of my favourite stories in the Bible involves new wineskins. Jesus said that you cannot pour new wine into old wineskins or they will burst. New wine needs new wineskins so that both are preserved. This is a beautiful picture of what fresh ideas look like.
Our minds must stretch and grow in order to accept a new idea. We can't make many of our old ideas fit with new ones because our perception has to change. We must make additional room in our experience for something new to grow and bloom. This process takes time, and therefore patience, and it's important not to give up before we see the seeds flower.
I am going to try my best to let go of some of my old snakeskins. I want to shed them, leaving them by the side of the road when I no longer need them, and then do my level best to walk away. Faith exists so that we can leave the old behind and feel safe embarking on a new path. We either believe that God will take care of us or he won't, and how we choose to live answers that question for us.
Every single time we do something that feels terrifying to us, we inch closer to being able to live without our extra layers of old-idea-skin. We do the best we can, failing often and extending ourselves grace. One day, the new thing will not be so scary and we will trust that after awhile, our current skin will turn into the old one. When it does, we can shed it and know that the process will continue, and eventually we inch our way into better overall health.