While my sun-lover girlfriends headed off to the South Carolina beach, I, forbidden by my dermatologist to suntan, strolled into the woods for a walk. The isolated path was canopied by trees, and with a light breeze, I would walk for a couple of hours. You can imagine my surprise—actually, no you can’t—when I rounded a corner and was greeted by this sign: “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” Yes, ALLIGATORS! As in “flesh-eating reptiles.” With no intention of becoming an alligator appetizer, my saunter turned into a U-turn sprint.
For the past eleven years, my five college sorority friends and I have traveled together. This year, the alligator year, we went to a resort in Hilton Head—one which caters to physical disabilities because Diana’s handicap has made our usual, annual reunion to Mexico too difficult to navigate.
Diana is an example of one who ignored initial warnings that her medication (doctor-prescribed) was harmful. Irreparable damage resulted. Her legs function only for a few, painful steps with a walker, and she needs constant periods of rest for her swollen feet.
Diana is not the only friend who paid no attention to warning signs. Two months ago, Frank, a friend in Mexico, mentioned several times to his wife that he was having severe headaches. When she tried to talk him into returning to their home in Canada so he could be seen by his doctor, Frank refused. I was there the night he collapsed. The stroke he suffered has left him completely disabled.
We all have had our fair share of warning signs, and the older I get, the more I take them—well, most of them—seriously. A mole with irregular margins. Bruises on a child at Walmart. A friend who talks too much. Ministry requests outside my area of expertise. And certainly, “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” Sometimes, however, I ignore the most important ones: the ones that deal with temptation.
The Bible is full of stories in which warnings went unheeded. Take Samson, for example, the Nazarite who had taken a vow never to cut his hair (which controlled his unparalleled strength). You probably know the story. If not, please read it in Judges 13-16.
What started as a simple look turned to lust as Samson dallied with Delilah, a Philistine woman and enemy of Israel. Goaded by Delilah to reveal the source of his strength, Samson ultimately shared his secret; as a result, Delilah trimmed his tresses, and Samson was captured, blinded and forced to grind grain for his enemies. While in prison his hair grew, and along with that, his strength returned. He died while destroying the temple of the Philistine god, Dagon, killing thousands of Philistines in the process.
Samson ignored sign after sign, never changing course, until his death. He had judged Israel for 20 years and on many occasions had demonstrated his faith in God, but once he turned away from what he knew to be right, his downfall was imminent. I consider it a solemn warning. The slippery slope into a spiritual landslide begins gradually.
Have you been there? I have. By dismissing warning signs, I feed my temptation. Think about it. Every addiction started with “One.” One cigarette. One profane word. One “little white lie.” One drink. One juicy piece of gossip. Or, like Samson, One “look.” Should we ignore the Holy Spirit’s check on our spirit, it becomes much easier to nurture the sin and pull away from God.
We’d be better off feeding an alligator.