I love alligators.
To be clear: I don’t want to own one, and I keep a respectable distance from them.
My affinity for the creature is more of a metaphor. I think of alligators as a perfect example of being what God created you to be and being happy in it.
The thing is, I’ve always had a problem with this concept of being comfortable with what I am and being happy with what God created me to be.
I’ve spent time seeking after things I’m really not meant to do — certain jobs, careers moves, assignments — sometimes because of a grass-is-greener-over-there mindset and sometimes because I’ve made assumptions about what I “should” be doing and sometimes because I listen to advice that’s best ignored. And it ends up creating a lot of unnecessary friction in my life. This has been a struggle for some time.
One day, as I walked around a park, I watched an alligator swimming through a lagoon. And I was struck by the thought that God had created that creature to be exactly what it was: It cannot be domesticated, it can be found among groups but prefers working alone, it understands and fills its needs (sleeps when it’s tired, eats when it’s hungry, etc.) and when it’s not working, it lies around sunning itself on a bank.
And I thought, “Hey, wait – that’s me as a writer.” True story.
I was gripped by the insight that this is God’s perfect design for this creature, and it’s an illustration of His perfect design for me — to be what he created me to be and to be happy in it. Sure, I can strive for excellence in what I do, but when it comes to who I am, I should not strive for any more or less than to be the creative, passionate, inspired, excited, deeply joyful individual that I already am and to rejoice that I was put on this Earth to be one of His beloved daughters.
It was an exciting moment when I realized this. And since then, the alligator has been the inspiration of that designation of God’s perfect design. I’ve collected a lot of alligator memorabilia, because that insight — moving though it was — sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day minutia and I need the reminders.
I have several alligator necklaces, a pair of alligator earrings and several alligator nick-nacks, stuffed toys and what-nots around my office to remind me. I have a three-foot plastic alligator that sits outside my office. I named him Cicero, and he looks real enough to have frightened people. I like that. Who wouldn’t want a guard-gator?
The alligator is an amazing creature. It has an undeserved reputation as a monster-beast, but maintains the good grace to be exactly what God created it to be and to be happy in his own skin.
We could learn a lot from the example.