The sun was setting as we eased the boat back away from the campground on the Ross Barnett Reservoir. The pallor of the sky was a grayish orange and the cool breeze was a brief respite from summer’s oppressive heat. We were headed out to jug fish at a spot among the lily pads where the Pearl River empties into the Reservoir. Jug fishing is an inexpensive way to catch big fish. All you need is an empty milk jug, a hook, some string, a lead weight, and the bait. You drop the baited jugs out, find a nice place to tie off, sit back, enjoy a Coke, and wait for the big fish to come for dinner.
As we were turning to head down the narrow canal toward the open water, we came face to face with a seven foot alligator who had been silently watching us for a long time like we were a couple of rotisserie chickens from the grocery deli. Alligators are common here and protected by law, so most people pay little attention to them. I’m not from here, and so every time I see one, something primal from deep within me starts screaming, “Run for your life!” Since I’ve never walked on water, I chose to be still, stay on the boat, and hide my feelings of terror from my fishing buddy. As silently as the gator came, he submerged and disappeared. No sound—no splash—not even a ripple—vanishing like a phantom into the dark green water.
In that moment of panic, God decided to pull up a chair, make it a teaching moment, and remind me of a spiritual truth. His lesson was not about fear or faith. It was an exercise in alertness. The Father reminded me that we all have an enemy lurking out there, watching us with steely red eyes like that gator. Our adversary is looking for that moment of opportunity where he can seize the advantage to kill, steal, or destroy something God is doing in our lives. He lurks—quietly waiting for someone to devour. He’s always there, even if we don’t see him.
The lesson of the alligator is this: it’s not the adversary, but our apathetic nature that poses our greatest threat. In Christ, we are more than conquerors, but if we allow the caress of apathy to embrace us and forget to be alert, we are in danger of becoming dinner for the devil. Or, if you will allow me to paraphrase 1 Peter 5:8 in the vernacular of a hesitant jug fisherman: “Watch out, be on the alert. Your adversary, that big gator, is seeking someone to devour. Don’t let it be you!”