Staying Awake on Gator Lake
There is something about danger that fascinates us. We are drawn to it. We know we shouldn’t be, but we are. And sometimes we live to regret that decision.
Not long ago some friends and I visited St. Andrew’s State Park on the east end of Panama City Beach. We went to see an estuary of storks and herons on an island in a body of water called Gator Lake. A short pier juts into the four-foot reeds that line the water’s edge, allowing us to see dozens of sea birds and their nests.
Off to the right is a short section of wood rail fence with a sign warning visitors to stay away from the alligators. Approaching the little fence, I saw in the water about eight feet away, two bulging eyes and the end of a snout. The submerged alligator looked young, perhaps two or three feet long.
Suddenly nearly a dozen tourists crowded the fence with cameras, cell phones, and I-pads. Some stepped in front of the fence for a better photo. I retreated to the pier. That amphibian might be small, but he could have a ten-foot relative close by in the reeds. Besides, a proverb says, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12) NIV.
Thankfully, no alligators assaulted anyone. No harm was done. This time. Admittedly, alligator attacks are rare and tourists probably come to this spot every day. However, such attacks are not impossible, especially if a mama gator feels her young is being threatened. Once a gator has a victim in its jaws, it holds on until it is sure the victim has drowned. That reminds me of another kind of predator that can seem fascinating until you are up close.
Most addictive lifestyles and abusive relationships start out as intriguing dangers. A young person is at a party where drugs and alcohol seem to be the cool thing to do. The idea of doing something that your parents warned you against is very appealing. You are showing everyone there that you are grown up. You are not a kid anymore. You are just showing off a little to impress your friends and that very attractive person that you just met.
While you are flirting with someone else, you are flirting with danger. It’s like swerving a car as close to the edge of a cliff as you can without going over. It’s a rush of adrenaline. It’s exciting, until suddenly it’s not. Once you careen over the cliff, it is very hard to get your life back on the right path.
But you don’t have to be young to be fascinated by dangerous temptations. Pride, prestige, and money can be just as alluring as a dose of adrenaline. Frequently it is status, wealth or someone else’s approval that makes us forget our common sense, drawing us away from the life Christ has called us to.
So, stay awake. Don’t be so quick to investigate the attractive unknown. Something may be lurking nearby other than what you see. It can seem as harmless as approaching a little alligator.
In the Bible, Peter said, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (I Peter 5:8-9) NIV.
Like our visit to see the herons and storks, we all seek out knowledge and beauty in life. But in pursuing a healthy fascination, we may become attracted to an unhealthy one. No one is immune to temptation. But we must remember: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it” (I Corinthians 10:13) NIV,
As we are more and more drawn to Christ, we will be less and less fascinated by people and things that would harm us. We can be curious and still temper our curiosity with guidance from the Holy Spirit. Let’s stay awake on Gator Lake.
© Sam Whatley
First published in River Region’s Journey magazine, June 2018