The snail hunt is the end of this story, so let’s start at the beginning. I bought a house. There were a few snails. I never had a house of my own before. So I didn’t know anything about snails. I learned how to mow, to pull weeds, and I even braved planting a new raised garden bed in the front of the house. After careful conversation with the plant experts at the nursery, I filled the bed with the proper soil, the proper fertilizer, and a plant everyone agreed I could probably keep alive. My dream was for the plant to grow and thrive and, eventually, have sweet white flowers in spring. In fact, I was so excited about this beautiful plant that I bought three of them and placed them carefully into the nutrient-rich soil I had prepared for them. All of this happened over a period of a few years, where I intermittently would also pull or spray weeds, sprinkle new grass seed on the weedy lawn, water things—usually too much or too little—and somehow my plants looked green in the the spring and summer. But always, always, there were snails.
I didn’t think much of the snails in the beginning. They seemed few and far between, mostly interested in resting in the cracks of my home’s brick exterior. They were mostly invisible to me except when I brushed loose shells off of the front porch. A minor hindrance.
I didn’t think much of the snails in the beginning.
Suddenly this spring, the snails have become enemy #1, and let me tell you why. They attacked one of the three beautiful plants which I myself put in the ground and for which I had such big dreams. Yes, the snails crawled on the underbelly of the plant, attaching themselves to so many leaves that several snails would drop out just from the plant being watered. Plant number three started looking wilty and sad, slowly turning more brown than green, with depressing little yellowing leaves. I began plucking snails and flinging them into the yard, desperate to remove them from my little baby bush, barely a year old. The next day, though, the snails would be back, happily settled in their home of choice—my plant!
I declared official war. I mowed the front lawn, and as many snails hiding in the grass were now exposed to the sun, they began rushing to a wetter, shadier home. I saw my chance. I grabbed a glove (to protect from the sliminess) and sprayed the inside of a plastic bag with insect repellent (the closest thing to snail killer I could find on the shelf). I combed the yard, seeing the snails perching atop grass leaves looking for a safe place to go, hopefully before the sun scorched them. But they needn’t have worried about the sun. My glove swooped in with unwavering determination, plopping snail after snail after snail into my bag. When I was finally satisfied, I left the battleground. My plant, however, is still dying.
Slimy, gross sins are slowly killing off the beautiful
growth God longs to see in me…
What does this tell me about God? I realize most people don’t think about snail hunts as great analogies for God’s plan for our lives, but today, I had an epiphany. I have snails in my own life—and not just in my yard. Slimy, gross sins are slowly killing off the beautiful growth God longs to see in me, killing off the dreams He has for me. There are “snails” wandering around in my soul that I have not rounded up and disposed of for a few reasons probably.
1) I didn’t know that the snails were dangerous. I indulged in sin out of ignorance.
2) I didn’t think a few snails were a big deal. Small sins couldn’t be big enough to really have any significant impact on my life, could they?
Excuses, to be sure. But still, they are reasons. In the case of #1, how does one respond? Certainly, when a person is transformed by choosing to follow Christ, the transformation doesn’t happen instantaneously. We slowly root out the things of the world that are choking off the things of God and hope that God, the amazing Master Gardener that He is, won’t let those awful nasties kill off our fledgling faith. Things we never realized were sin are brought into the light. When I first noticed snails in my yard, I surely never thought they would kill a plant. I might have reacted differently to them in the beginning, but I just simply didn’t know. Now that I know, I must act. Where the metaphor breaks down though is that as Christians, we need not act alone. Not only is Jesus Christ fighting for us (and has the victory, let’s not forget) and interceding on our behalf, but we also have the unity of the body of Christ to stand alongside us in the fight for freedom and for the glory of God.
In the case of #2, well, I have little defense. When I started noticing damage on a plant that was accosted by snails, I simply, lazily, flung them into the yard. I didn’t dispose of them. And they multiplied. And multiplied. And now even though I’ve just hunted dozens of snails out of my yard, I know there are more buried in the dirt, waiting for the right time to lift their heads. I know there are more still hiding in the leaves of the bushes. There are baby snails waiting to grow up and make their way to the yummy bushes. Boo. The fight is harder now because, once I realized the damage that was possible, I didn’t take action. Once we are aware of sin in our lives, we must take action to round it up and toss it out—give it to Jesus and let Him dispose of it as only He can. Putting the sin aside as a temporary reprieve won’t cut it. We must be persistent. We must be determined. We must have faith in the power of the Great Savior to really save.
I know I am one of those sheep, loved by Jesus.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” This verse’s context is about the shepherd’s voice, that the sheep know and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. I know I am one of those sheep, loved by Jesus. I want to hear and follow His voice, not the voices of those set only to destroy the life my Shepherd longs for me to have.
And so today, I went on a snail hunt both outside and inside. I rounded up the snails in my yard and tied them up in a bag with some leaves and tossed them into a trashcan. And I hope my plant recovers. But I’m also hunting “snails” that I’ve allowed into my head and my heart. God wants them gone. They are killing me. They are killing you. They are destroying us. And our Heavenly Father has dreams for our lives! He has purpose for our fruit! He is doing a mighty work and He wants us to resist the temptation to invite sin into the holy place where it will wreck the good work God is doing.
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, please give us eyes to see whatever slimy, gross sin we’ve allowed into our hearts and lives, whatever it is that is killing our souls and impairing us so that we can’t do the work You’ve called us to do. Please perfect Your strength in our weakness that we can see the power of God cleanse and purify the broken and rotten places of our hearts and souls. Give us wisdom to know how to resist temptation, to flee from evil, to choose You above all else, whatever the cost. Give us hope of new life and good fruit, nurtured in Your safe and gentle hands and produced for Your glory. In the powerful name of Jesus Christ we pray, amen.