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Finding Shade

Jadav Payeng lives on the river island of Majuli.

In 1979, when Payeng was just 16-years-old, the island was hit by heavy rains. The floods washed a large number of river snakes ashore, where they were unable to survive the intense heat that broke when the rain subsided. Payeng stumbled upon dozens of dead snakes and wept over their carcasses.

Payeng decided to abandon his education and dedicate himself to planting trees along the shoreline so when the next heavy rains came the snakes that ran ashore would be protected from the hot sun and have a chance at survival.

As I read Payeng’s story I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth would possess anyone to give up everything they had to save snakes. Snakes!

Snakes are not beautiful. They’re not appealing. They hiss and they bite and they poison.

Why would anyone abdicate their opportunity for a comfortable life to dedicate themselves to saving snakes?

I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that we’re not that different than snakes.

Don’t get me wrong. We are made in the image of God and, so, dignified.

But our sin has tarnished our beauty. Our sin has, frankly, made us unappealing. We hiss and we bite and we poison.

Our sin renders us about as worth rescuing as a bunch of river snakes.

Yet God.

I don’t know what Payeng believes. I know nothing of his faith.

But I do know that, in planting trees to protect river snakes from the heat, he was imaging his Creator.

As Payeng abandoned his comfort, so God stepped down from His throne to give Himself over to covering us – not with the shade bamboo but with the blood of His Son.

Praise God that as we wash ashore – left to the oppressive heat of sin and death – we find shade in the presence of our loving God.

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