Beware of Falling Iguanas

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

It was the headline I never expected to see: “Beware of Falling Iguanas.” And yet that was the local, even national, news story that appeared while I was on a brief vacation in Florida at the end of January when an unusual cold snap settled into the region.
You probably know that an iguana is a lizard-like animal that inhabits Central and South America, the Caribbean and, obviously, Florida. They’re cold-blooded reptiles that are affected by the ambient temperature. And they climb trees. Now it seems that in chilly temperatures iguanas become immobile, lose their grip, and fall from the trees they’ve inhabited. A passer-by could be hit by a falling iguana or, more dangerously, try to pick-up a frozen critter thinking it dead, only to be bitten by the suddenly revived and agitated reptile. Thus the warning.
Life is filled with surprises, with unpredictable events, isn’t it? And they’re usually far more significant than lizards falling from trees.
Some surprises are pleasant: a surprise birthday party, a winning lottery ticket or an unexpected pay raise fall into that category. But I suspect that the majority of surprises aren’t that pleasant: a diagnosis of a serious illness, a major auto accident, the sudden death of a loved one, for example.
How do we survive the surprises that come our way and integrate them into a meaningful life? Well, that’s where our faith comes in. It’s our faith that gives us a sure foundation on which to build our lives.
The Psalms speak of God as the foundation of our lives: “I love you, O Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.” (Ps 18:2) And Jesus continued that theme saying: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” (Mt 7:24) The storms of life won’t destroy a house that’s set on a solid foundation, Jesus explains.
I don’t know how people without faith handle the sudden storms of life. Where do they seek direction or answers? Where do they turn for comfort and consolation? What do they see as the final destination of their journey?
Now, we know for sure that faith doesn’t shield us from the surprises of life; we’ve all experienced that. But it does help us survive them. Even should iguanas start falling from trees.
Something to think about: What are the surprises, good or bad, that you’ve experienced in life?