The Ouroboros, on repentance

The purpose of the series ‘How to Wreck Your Life’ was to expose idolatry. Over the last three weeks, we’ve talked about how, if’ we’re not careful, we can take a good thing, elevate it to being an ultimate thing, and turn it into a ‘god’ (little ‘g’) thing. Without correcting our priorities, this god thing eats away at the foundation of our ultimate goal until it is irreparably damaged. We know to make God our ultimate focus, we have seen red flags popping up in the places our life’s focus has become skewed, we’re not proud of our poor prioritizing, but it’s where we’re at; so now what? When we know we’ve idolized some area of our life, good or not, what can we do about it? Repent. Don’t say you’re sorry and promise not to do it again; intentionally change your mindset by making changes to you priorities.

Colossians 3:5-10

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Will that be the end of it? Unfortunately, not. We have to constantly keep ourselves in check, cycling through having everything in order, something flashing catching our eye and drawing our attention, realizing that shiny thing is not as important as we thought, and repenting by putting everything in order again. Martin Luther nailed this aspect of life in number one of his ninety-five theses; all of life is repentance. Luther understood we are fragile, weak beings that will not maintain a righteous lifestyle even with the best intentions. Life is a constant cycle of trying, succeeding, failing, and repenting.

The Ouroboros

The comparison to life as a cycle in the context of repentance immediately got my neurotransmitters firing like a Fourth of July fireworks finale. My imagination settled on an Ouroboros, an ancient icon of a serpent eating its own tail, consuming itself and regenerating itself simultaneously. A what?! I’m sure many of you wonder. Allow me to explain. The Ouroboros originated in ancient Egypt but its name is Greek, Οὐρά (oura) meaning “tail” and βόρος (boros) meaning “eating”. Referenced in many cultures, the Ouroboros carries a common theme of life, death, and rebirth; the cycle of life. The Christian life follows the same cycle, life is found when we are born in Christ, the physical body dies, then we continue our spiritual life in heaven.

Applying it to the Christian walk, we begin a place where we are close to God, aligning our priorities with his, trusting his direction and ignoring our desires; this is the ‘birth’ stage of the Ouroboros. As life goes on we grow comfortable and confident, without keeping ourselves in check comfortable evolves into entitled and confident into arrogant. We let go of God and latch on to that shiny thing that becomes our god; this is death. The cycle completes when we look up and realize life is not what we thought, we acknowledge our poor choices led us down a path we wish we’d avoided and we re-embrace life as God intends. This is re-birth.

Historically, the Ouroboros is manifested in the form of a snake of a dragon. I chose to create my Ouroboros in the form of a dragon and in the style of a tattoo. I am not familiar with the art of tattoos and don’t necessarily prefer dragons to snakes, so I’m not completely sure why I landed on this design. Julie and I watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” last night (an excellent movie if you like a good mystery), I’m sure that has a lot to do with it!


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