A traditional figure in Indonesian culture is the Garuda; a mythical bird, often seen carrying a serpent in its’ talons. Carrying the serpent in the talons is representative of the power it has over the serpent.
For most of my life, I was raised in a world of fear. Underneath all of the salvation the church claims to offer, is the idea that you need to be saved – and somehow aren’t good enough on your own.
“All my good acts are as filthy rags in your sight” is a paraphrased verse from the bible. The word for ‘rags’ in this case was derived from used women’s hygiene products. Let that soak in for a moment.
Imagine telling a loved one that no matter what they did to try and please you, you perceived it as them throwing filthy ‘rags’ at your feet.
At the root of most insecurities is the fear that one isn’t good enough. I understand this all too well, battling deep insecurities for most of my adult life.
I never really understood why, until I looked at my upbringing and saw the impact belief and words can have on an impressionable childhood mind.
As a child, I remember red-faced adults yelling at me that if I didn’t apologize for my sins, I would suffer a life of eternal damnation.
What actions could a small child do to warrant this sort of torment, suffering, and pain? It never made sense to me.
The sweat poured down their faces as the tears fell from my eyes; afraid that I was hell-bound because I had told a lie, lost my temper, or disrespected my parents.
If a man goes to jail for 20 years because of a crime, why would a lie warrant a child to hell – a place described infinitely worse than my darkest nightmares – for eternal eternities?
As a child, my grandfather gave me a small wooden plaque. Using wood burning, he drew a serpent on the wood, inscribed with the infamous “Don’t tread on me” phrase, seen in colonial American flags.
As I got older, I began to understand what this phrase meant. Revere the snake, and give it the space it needs in order to exist. All creatures great and small serve a purpose.
Fear, too, serves a purpose in our lives. It illuminates the parts of our lives that we have yet to understand, while highlighting the delicate nature in which we need to handle our fears.
When I look at the Garuda, I see a different shade of legend. Rather than seeing a powerful animal which destroys another beast, I see a figure that carries the serpent to its rightful place; understanding, freedom, and respect.
What’s your serpent?