When an unusual cold snap hits the Sunshine State, the National Weather Service in Miami issues unofficial warnings for falling iguanas.
"This isn't something we usually forecast,” the weather service tweeted, “but don't be surprised if you see iguanas falling from the trees tonight as lows drop into the 30s and 40s.”
When the cold-blooded reptiles’ body temperature drops to fifty degrees, they become lethargic. Below forty, they begin to stiffen up, causing them to lose their grips on the trees where they live, dropping onto the heads of unsuspecting passersby.
“Don’t assume they’re dead,” meteorologists warn, “and don’t try to warm them up. They can bite.”
I’ve never seen a falling iguana, but I have seen the effects cold has on people—physically and spiritually.
I was 14 years old when the Blizzard of ’78 roared through my home state of Rhode Island. Dropping as much as forty inches of snow on southern New England, the storm packed 70 mph winds and brought four days of storm surge. One hundred people died, including 10-year-old Peter Gosselin, who jumped out of a second story window into a 10-foot snow bank, hit his head, and died. His body was recovered three weeks later.
Three thousand five hundred motorists were trapped in their cars trying to get home in Rhode Island and Massachusetts the day the blizzard struck. Forecasters had predicted the storm, but because previous forecasts had been inaccurate, no one took the warning seriously.
When the snow began to fall, it was just another day at work—until the snow began to fly—up to four inches an hour at the height of the storm. By then it was too late.
Seventeen people died of carbon monoxide poisoning when the snow blocked the tailpipes of their vehicles idling on the freeways. People had to be rescued by snow mobiles, sleds, and even cross country skiers.
Spiritual coldness can be just as deadly. Like the iguanas in Florida and the snow in Rhode Island, it has the power to sneak up on us gradually, with disastrous results.
Hobbies and other interests can squeeze out our times of Bible reading and prayer. A health challenge can make church attendance more difficult. Even happy events like a new friendship, a different living arrangement, or a new grandchild can distract us from the habits and routines that govern our spiritual lives.
Our spiritual temperature drops, and we grow stiff and lethargic. We lose the desire to spend time in God’s Word and with God’s people. We’re less likely to give and serve. We begin to justify our lack of spiritual energy. I don’t have to go to church to be spiritual. I can worship right here.
Before long, we’re in danger of losing our grip and falling. We’re not dead, but if something doesn’t change, we soon will be.
Are you in danger of becoming a falling iguana?
Has your spiritual body temperature dropped to a dangerous level? Are you hanging on with ever-stiffening fingers? Are you a toenail away from losing your grip and taking someone else down with you?
Then it’s time to make a change.
Perhaps it’s time to seek sanctuary in the warmth of the church. To come in out of the cold of independence and become interdependent. Or maybe you need to thaw your hands at the fire of God’s Word. Or get your spiritual blood pumping again in prayer and praise. Or fan into flame the gifts God has given you by serving someone who can’t serve you back.
Regardless of what you do, take that first step. And the next. And the next. Before long your spiritual heart will be pumping, your grip will grow strong again, and your legs will be running to rescue others.
It’s time to get moving. What are you waiting for?
“Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!” (Romans 12:11)
Lori Hatcher is the author of Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible. She and her pastor husband live delightfully close to their four grandchildren in Lexington, South Carolina. Connect with her at www.LoriHatcher.com.