When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. – Acts 28:3
It is a Monday, and despite the blue skies, for me it is one of those Mondays. I knew it would be a rough one, the signs were there. Like last night, I looked into my shower stall and there was a slug of some sort: some grubby, worm-like thing just lying in there like he belonged. It was like my Monday had come early, as I washed the intruding beast down the drain from whence it came.
But I couldn’t wash away the impending Monday—it would come, as it always does, much like life itself. In life, there are good days and bad days. There are days that hurt, and those invincible ones in which we don’t feel a thing. And apparently, there are days when we find worms in our showers.
And this morning, amid my Monday morning malaise, I read Acts 28:3. After being arrested and going through trial after trial, then being tossed about at sea for a fortnight, and finally shipwrecked, Paul starts a fire only to have a poisonous snake latch onto his hand. This goes beyond, “when it rains, it pours” sentiment. But here is what I like about Paul—verse 5 reads “He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”
“He shook it off.” How simple is that? He didn’t complain about his misfortune. He didn’t exaggerate his mounting dilemmas or bad luck in order to get attention. He didn’t whine or moan or wish it was Tuesday. He shook it off and kept moving. In a few more verses, the whole snake incident is forgotten as Paul is visiting homes and praying with people. Like the slug in my shower, he just let the water take it down the drain.
And I love the people watching this scene too. As soon as they saw the snake latch onto Paul’s hand, they concluded that he was a murderer and that this was a sign of impending justice. They watched and waited for him to swell up like a balloon, anticipating his dire misfortune. But Paul gave them nothing to seize upon. He shook the snake off and kept about his business. “Well, he must be a god then!” they deduced, jumping from one conclusion to another like Tarzan swinging from tree to tree.
On our ships, there are sunny days and stormy ones. Some of us sail in tropical climes while others seem always amid Northeasters. But the simple fact is that we all have highs and lows in life. And we should take both in stride, in our lives and the lives of those around us. We shouldn’t take too much credit for the sun nor shout curses at the rain, but rather enjoy the good, shake off the bad, and keep on our way, realizing that life is short and there is much to be done.