Saturday, 29 August 2009

Meeting God Through Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders was a favourite game of my childhood. You know how it goes? Each players has a coloured counter, which is to progress from the starting square in the bottom corner of the board to the winning square in the top corner. In turn we threw a dice and moved our counters forward accordingly.
However, the progress was not straightforward. On the board were snakes and ladders of various lengths. If your counter had to be moved to the head of a snake, down you went to its tail. If your counter came to the foot of a ladder, it was moved up to its top. Perversely, there was the head of a long snake just next to the winning square. When you were in the sight of victory you might find yourself making a long descent.

I have never known anyone have a clear run from beginning to end -ascending ladders, but never being troubled by snakes. This is a game of elation and frustration! The same is true of the spiritual life. But this is no game. It is serious business.

By tradition the snake represents the devil, as we find the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. From ancient times progress in the spiritual life has been described as climbing a flight of stairs or mounting a ladder. So our own personal Salvation History can be understood in terms of Spiritual Snakes and Ladders!

There have been times when I've felt that I was making steady progress in the spiritual life. Also rare and precious moments when I have seemed to surge upwards -much like moving up the ladders of the game. This has been a good experience that filled me with confidence. I have been walking with God. He has been journeying with me.

Sad to say, I have been brought down to earth -my earthly self -not once but many times, in many ways. Often when I least expected it. I have met snakes, which have been the cause of my downfall. I really shouldn't blame them because I have my own conscience and free will. My downfall has been my own doing. I'm not like a counter, moved up and down the board of life. When I have ascended it has been the grace of God that has taken me upwards. I have wanted this to happen, allowed this to happen. When I've move downwards I have chosen to take that path.

Many have been my good and sincere resolutions i which I've persevered for a time, only to belie them. I can recall preaching what I thought was a fine sermon on loving our neighbour. Shortly afterwards, when the congregation had left the church, I was getting into a bad-tempered exchange with someone who annoyed me. Then, disappointment, disillusionment with myself, shame. Had my progress been a fanciful dream?

How I long for a spirituality of steady consistency, or, if not that, at least no sliding backwards! I am denied that luxury. I deny myself that luxury, precisely because I keep on flirting with snakes!

Being at the end of the snake's tail when I've thought I should be at least at the top of a short ladder is not comfortable. But I've come to realise that I'm not in this snakes and ladders routine on my own. It's at the tip of the snake's tail, my descent into sinful failure, that I meet Jesus -my saviour. He picks me up, sets me on my feet and accompanies me on the journey ahead.

Jesus meets me at the point of my lowliness -my failure through sinfulness. And there He inspires me to approach him with a repentant heart and seek His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He makes me whole, fit to scale the ladders that lead to God. wary of snakes that could deflect me from him. There is sadness because of the snakes, rejoicing because of the ladders. My fond hope and determination is that I shall eventually reach the winning square -eternity with God!

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will meet God in 'Looking a Mess.'

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your memories of snakes and ladders. I really enjoyed the game myself many moons ago.. There are times when I too think I've mastered the old ego until I suddenly find myself snapping at my husband...
    I think we'll be struggling along till our last breath, then hopefully we'll receive that longed for hug from our heavenly Dad.