The other night we had supper at Fudpuckers in Destin, Fla. If you have never eaten there, it is one of the touristry places to eat. It is a good hamburger, sandwich place. One of it's attractions is Gator Beach where you can feed the gators, watch the gators while you wait, but don't go swimming with them. "Just attach a piece of specially formulated “gator bait” to a cane pole and lower the food down into the pond!" They also have "Gator Shows" throughout the day.
Seeing all the gators made me think about the gators we have to deal with in life. Alligators are an opportunistic feeder which means they will eat anything that crosses their path if they are hungry. They are people who are like that you know; they will take advantage of, run over, or eat you for lunch. It doesn't matter if you are friend or foe to them. Fortunately, alligators do not see people as a source of food, and you are more likely to get struck by lightening than you are to be eaten by an alligator. However, some people will see you as a source of energy or power or use you. 99% of all alligator attacks are provoked. By feeding an alligator in the wild you are actually provoking an attack. Alligators can associate humans with food and people may be attacked because someone else has fed the alligator.
Seeing the gators lying around in the sun made me think of the gators in the church as well. Sometimes there are people in churches like the gators waiting for the preacher to make one mistake, say one thing wrong, forget something or somebody, and they are ready to eat the preacher alive. Now not all church members are like that though, thank God. They too look for an opportunity to strike usually to bring uproar and dissonance to a church. They are not looking for harmony. They are looking for "gator bait", which might be an unsuspecting new member or new Christian as well as a staff member.
I grew up in Florida on the lakes around Avon Park and Sebring, Florida. There were plenty of gators around, and my parents were very protective of us. Finally they moved into town away from the lakes. But we still swam in them. I have even seen them come up on land into people's fish ponds. I remember being fascinated by them and yet keeping my distance.
Here is some SAFETY INFORMATION about gators
- Don't feed alligators. This is a most important rule. Providing food for these wild animals not only makes them bolder and encourages them to seek out people.
- Keep your distance. Although they may look slow and awkward, these animals are extremely powerful and can move with a startling burst of speed on land over short distances. A safe distance from an adult alligator is about 60 feet.
- Never disturb nests or small alligators. Some female alligators protect their young and may become aggressive if provoked. A baby alligator should never be captured, even if the mother is not visible. She may be watching you and decide to take action to protect her baby.
- Keep your pets and children away from alligators. Large alligators do not recognize the difference between domestic pets and wild food sources. When they are hungry, alligators act on their hunting instinct and might attempt to feed on your house pet if given the opportunity.
- Don't swim in areas that are known alligator habitats. Always be careful around water. Splashing can attract alligators that think a prey animal is injured. They may act on instinct and attack. Or, a protective female may believe her young or eggs are threatened and take defensive action. Be cautious when fishing in waters with alligators, as some will not hestitate to grab a hooked fish or eat the fish on a stringer.
Having read those makes me think of some the suggestions that Peter Steinke has in his books on systems dynamics of churches. Be a non-anxious presence. Don't get triangulated. Be direct and honest. Don't keep secrets. Keep your own boundaries clear so you can be self differentiated. Be aware of emotional cutoffs. There's more, and maybe you have learned a few in life or Pastoring you would be willing to share. Just add your comment.