Dialogue with the Serpent — a myth

Tonight as I begin my meditation, I am excited, as though something special is about to occur. This is just how I felt the first time I met the Lord, so I hurry on my way.
Then I see him. “What’s up?” I ask.
“You’ll see,” he replies. “Come on.”
He turns and I follow him into a cavern. I hear water dripping slowly somewhere nearby. We continue into a room past white stony columns and then down a steep incline.
Eventually, deep below the surface, the path levels and broadens. I begin to hear a new sound, deep and repetitive, somewhere in the distance. The sound grows as we approach and light in the cavern pulsates in time with it.
Foomp-bump-foomp-bump-foomp-bump. It is the sound of a great flame, which pulses regularly like the beat of some gigantic heart.
I feel the heat rising on my face. Beads of sweat appear on my forehead, at first tiny but growing with the heat, as we draw near. The Lord continues onward.
Finally he turns. “We will be going through there,” he says, pointing to the very center of the flame.
Beyond the flame I see a tiny opening in the wall of the cavern, our destination. I swallow. My throat is dry.
“Follow me.” He steps forward into the inferno, then turns to beckon me onward. “You must, it is the only way.”
I lick my lips, nod and step forward. The heat grows quickly –not from outside my body but from within. It begins in my heart and radiates outward. I take another step. The fire is everywhere. I see nothing feel nothing else.
“This way,” Jesus says, speaking around the roar of the flame.
I take a step and I am out. I realize that I have been holding my breath and release it in a long sigh. Looking down at myself, I find that all my clothing has been burned away. My skin, even on the palms of my hands, is covered with a fine white ash.
We walk forward, coming to the end of the tunnel. It ends in a spray of water. A small stream, clear and cold cascades from somewhere above the mouth of the cave and falls into a pool below. Outside I see a garden, healthy and green, with flowers everywhere.
“Do you like it?” Jesus asks.
“Yes, Lord.” I like it very much.
“This is where you were meant to dwell,” he continues. “It suits you perfectly.”
We pass through the waterfall, which washes the ash from my body, and step into the warm sunshine. A deer lifts its head from the branch it had been nibbling and walks over to investigate. I stretch out my hand. It sniffs then rubs its head on my palm. I scratch its ears until it loses interest and wanders off.
“There is food here, all you’ll ever need,” Jesus observes. “Mind you, eat no meat.”
I nod and smile. “Any fruit I shouldn’t eat?”
“Nothing you haven’t eaten many times before,” he replies smiling gently. “Stay as long as you like, return whenever you want. This is my gift to you that you may be as you were intended to be.”
“Will you stay with me?” I ask, suddenly realizing just how much I would miss him if he left.
“If you wish.”
“Yes Lord, this is marvelous. But I’d rather be with you in hell than be here without you.”
He nods. “That is precisely why you are here. And,” he adds, “the hell will come soon enough if you have the courage.”
I become engrossed in the song of a bird above us, missing the significance of his response. I look up and the bird cocks his head, returning my stare. He continues singing. Presently another bird joins in. They sing a brief duet then fly off together.
Jesus watches for a while. Then he speaks, “The serpent is still here,” he says.
“Yes, Lord,” I respond not quite sure what else to say.
“He is as much a part of this place as you are, so beware.”
“Shall I speak to him?”
“If you wish, but be careful.”
“Lord, I’ve made so many mistakes in my lifetime, but I cannot avoid him–can I?”
“No you cannot. You must reach some kind of accommodation. You must learn to live in harmony with him as with all things. I cannot help you in this, you must find your own way if you are to be truly yourself.”
“I know.”
“I love you, little brother,” Jesus says tenderly.”Are you ready to meet the serpent now?” he asks.
“No,” I reply quite honestly. “I may never be ready, but I’m willing.”
“Very astute, that will have to do. He’s down that ravine,” he says, nodding to indicate the direction. “Turn left at the bottom; you’ll find him sunning himself on a flat rock. You must go alone.”
“Alone?”
“Yes, alone,” he says emphatically. “It would be better if you were hungry too but it’s too late to worry about that.”
“Will you watch over me?”
I swallow hard then turn and begin my walk down the ravine. When I reach the bottom I turn left and there he lies. His two red eyes stare at me unwavering.
Suddenly it is dark, as if some great cloud has blotted out the sun. “Hello,” the serpent hisses. “I have been waiting for you, little one. You look well, I see. I especially like the fat.” He chuckles to himself as if enjoying some joke only he understands. “Great wardrobe too.” I’m still naked, of course.
I say nothing.
“So you aren’t going to speak. You know, I win if we don’t reach some agreement.” He laughs again, this time louder.
I respond quietly, speaking barely above a whisper. “It seems that you win regardless. So okay, you win.”
“Cut the crap. So, what do you want.”
I shrug. “Nothing and everything. Nothing from you because I want more than you have to offer.”
“More crap.” He seems quite angry now. “Name your price.”
Feeling stronger now, I reply, “I’d rather give you something.”
“What?” asks the serpent withdrawing a bit.
“Love, perhaps,” I respond pressing my advantage.
The serpent strikes and misses. I stand my ground. “Touche!” he says. “I withdraw my offer.”
Quite suddenly it occurs to me that I am being conned, outsmarted, even now. To win this exchange is to lose in the end. I must neither win nor lose. I must give away my advantage.
I nod, “My offer still stands but I will not force it on you. I feel like I’m winning here and that isn’t what I want. Not at all, it isn’t.”
The serpent’s voice grows deep and menacing. “Then what do you want?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I certainly don’t know either.” He laughs, returning to his light mocking tone. “Come back again another day little boy. You amuse me.”
“Perhaps I will,” I say, ignoring his taunts, “but I’m not ready to leave just yet.”
“I’m ready for you to leave. Go!” he commands.
“No.” I am adamant. Then more softly, “Not yet, not until I touch you.”
“What?”
“You heard me.” I step forward. He prepares again to strike as I extend my hand. Slowly, ever so slowly I lower my hand onto his head; he does not move.
Surprisingly, I find him quite warm to the touch. He tolerates my touch for perhaps five seconds before vanishing in a swirl of black smoke.
I am alone. The sun returns as I make my way back up the ravine.
Jesus is there, waiting. He seems pleased. “A very good start, little brother. We shall try again later. For now rest and pray.”
But later that night, just as I drift off to sleep, the serpent finds me in my room. Neither of us speaks as again I extend my left hand toward him. This time I do not try to touch him; instead I hold my hand a few inches from his fangs. I wait briefly, staring into his eyes, until he decides to bite. I fall asleep feeling the poison course through my body. For now, this is our accommodation.

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