Out on a Limb
The iguanas of St. John–
We were warned before we went: they’re all over the island; AND–they love red. We didn’t know why, I only knew that I’d forgotten to change my RED toe nail polish…So, as we explored on our St. John trip, me and my red toes avoided the iguanas until we could find out more. We asked a St. John local and found out that the red hibiscus flower is the iguanas’ favorite treat. The red blossoms are absolutely intoxicating to them. Soooo–they associate all things red with intoxication and, like the moth to the flame, they feel drawn to pursue it. I wanted to keep my toes, so I continued to avoid the iguanas, but they are EVERYWHERE on the island!
And these guys are truly fascinating.
They look like a mini Jurassic World exhibit with their sharp claws, scaly, spiny bodies, their bulging eyes and slow blinking eyelids, their tongues that lap out like a lazy snake tongue and their whip-like tails.
What surprised me most is their agility.
Figuring me and my red toes were safe in the pool, I went for a swim. The Westin St. John’s main pool is lovely: the warm waters, the waterfall features, the mini oasis in the middle of the pool with a water bench shaded by the palm trees and foliage that it houses. It became my favorite hang out, until…
I flipped around on the bench and lifted my toes to prop them on the side of the oasis wall. This way I could semi-float and look up at the palms swaying in the Caribbean breeze. I saw people walking around the pool and floating on their floaties doing the same thing–looking up. I followed their gaze. Those iguanas apparently can swim. Not only can they swim, they can climb! My gaze locked on the iguana napping in the luxury of a large green palm frond about twenty feet directly above my head. And, if he swam out to the oasis, then my red toes were no longer safe just inches away from the dense foliage that could’ve housed many more of his camouflaged green friends!
We left this pool and found another Westin pool located on the hillside with nothing but time shares and concrete to threaten us.
As I sleepily floated around this tiny pool on my float, I looked up at the Caribbean clouds floating by and the branches of what appeared to be bare trees across the street up the hillside. My eyes popped wide open as I realized who was there—another tree top Jurassic friend! I breathed deep, relaxed and observed this creature from the safety of my pool float.
This determined dragon scaled the 30 ft up to hang out in what appeared to me to be a bare branched tree. There were no red hibiscus flowers or luxurious leaves of green on its branch arms; just bare, spindly branches. I understood the palm frond locale for an afternoon nap, but why hang out in a bare tree? I watched as he expertly made his way down one of the tree’s crooked limbs. As the breeze kicked up and he made his way toward the end, the branch bounced up and down. The elements threatened to blow him off or to be just enough to break the branch, but it didn’t. And he progressed.
I watched amazed as minutes ticked by and this daring creature patiently balanced his way almost completely to the end of the limb. His tenacious claws held fast to the branch; his long tail skillfully balanced the weight of his body; and my heart skipped a beat, as each whispering wind and movement bounced the branch beneath him. I thought surely, any instant, I’d hear a crackling and watch this amazing creature plummet to the depths.
I didn’t want to miss a thing.
I couldn’t tear my eyes away; witnessing the patience and determination of this creature!
What was worth this journey to the end? Why the risk? I focused in on him. Then, in the blink of an eye, his tongue whipped out and latched on to the tiny white flower that I hadn’t seen at the end of that tree’s limb. Wide eyed again, I swear I saw him smiling at me as he chomped and chewed the fruits of his labor.
Still not tearing my eyes away, I watched him, inch by inch, retreat and repeat this same journey on a different limb. I now could see the tree that I once thought was barren, housed at least a dozen lightly colored, teensy flowers at the end of its limbs.
I later learned that these guys do this to many trees and all across the island.
And, every so often, you’ll hear a crackling and the plummeting.
I must admit it–I’m more like the pool iguana; choosing the comforts of a large, luxurious palm frond where, if I’m startled awake or if the branch breaks and I plummet, it is into a nice splashy pool where I can swim to safety. This life can be quite exhausting. It’s really tough to beat a good nap.
But then there’s the daring, skillful, hillside iguana. My heart just beats faster as I remember witnessing him risking it all; traversing out on that skinny limb to secure the succulent flower bud for a snack. Time after time. More risky, but also yielding a reward.
Are we really that different than the iguana?
How often do we sit idly by, in the comfort of whatever palm frond, couch, job, relationship, etc., and not take the chance because of not knowing what is at the end of that branch? And what if you plummet?
Or, how often do we watch others taking great risk or making sacrifices, without understanding that what they are striving for is so worth it to them?
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.—Jeremiah 29:11
God has great plans for each of our lives.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.—Psalm 37:4
God created us each with different dreams, ambitions, thirsts, skills and talents.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28
He will make a way for us. He clears the path before us and helps us when we plummet.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.—John 15:7-8
I believe that God will place in you a tenacious hunger for something that will require a leap of faith.
Whether you are a risk-taker or not, I encourage you to use the God-given talents you possess to pursue what motivates you.
You have no idea who might be watching or who YOU might inspire.
Go ahead. Go out on that limb.
Because you know how many hillside, succulent flowers the napping “palm frond iguana” enjoyed and savored?
Not a single one.