Last night my daughter, Molly, and I had a close encounter with a snake. I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say he was huge and just inches from my arm when I saw him, sang opera, kicked myself in the back of the head trying to get away, then spent half an hour hyperventilating and reliving it in my mind. For the next several months I'll imagine snakes everywhere I look. I won't set foot outside without scanning the grass, the sidewalk, the bushes, the trees for something long, skinny, and scaly. I'll check under the covers before I get in bed and even look under the toilet seat.
People who aren't afraid of snakes can't understand. They can tell me he's harmless, "the good kind of snake to have around." That does not compute. He's a snake, and I don't care how many rodents he kills. The mere sight of him will leave me upset for literally months. The only thing that helped me calm down last night was Molly. She was clearly more upset than I, and it seemed the motherly thing to do to forget myself and try to comfort her.
I hugged her. She cried and shook and replayed the scene for me. (As if I could forget.) We called a neighbor who, instead of killing the thing, chased it right into my flower bed and told me what a good snake it is to have there. Thanks for nothing.
An hour later, Molly and I were driving to meet my husband and son at the ball park. I was calculating how close we'd have to walk to the overgrown backfield that looks like snake paradise, when Molly asked, "Mom, how can I stop feeling so scared?"
I suggested we say a prayer and ask God to help us. We talked a little bit first about how God made snakes and just because we can't appreciate their beauty and usefulness doesn't take away from the fact that they're God's creation just like we are.
You know how God tells us to hide his Word in our hearts and that the Holy Spirit will recall it to our mind when we need it? Well, as we were talking, I remembered what it says about fear in 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). We talked about the fact that if God didn't give us the fear we were feeling it must have come from the enemy, and do we want anything that came from him? Then I remembered that, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). I asked Molly if she really believed that. (In my heart I asked myself.)
This is just how it's supposed to work, I thought. God's promises were rising to the top of my mind and I was ready to claim them. Just as Christ did when the devil tempted him in the desert, I was pulling out my weapon—the Word of God—ready to say, "It is written …" Molly and I were ready to pray now. We repeated those promises and told God we wanted to stand on them. We asked him in Jesus' name to take away our fear.
Next thing we knew, we were caught up in a little league game and the snake was all but forgotten. Until this morning. When Molly and I saw the snake, we were looking into my flower bed where I'd carefully arranged all the plants I was going to plant today. I'd spent a long time at the nursery selecting them, given great thought to where each one would grow best, and had blocked out the morning to get them in the ground. After I dropped off the kids at school I stood staring at those plants, the bags of top soil and mulch, the special time-release plant food, my gardening tools, even my CD player so I could listen to worship music while I played in the dirt.
Now I stood frozen knowing good and well I wasn't going anywhere near that flowerbed where a snake had been just 14 hours before. Where was he now? Those plants could die in their pots for all I cared. It didn't matter that our neighbor had assured me he was harmless, "A little, old chicken snake. Just chase him away with the garden hose if he bothers you." I didn't care how many times my husband reminded me, "He's more afraid of you than you are of him." Impossible!
Then I thought of Molly. I pictured her coming home from school, seeing the plants still in their pots and knowing I'd been too scared to plant them. She wouldn't say a word but what would her mind register? That I was still scared in spite of the prayer we'd said last night. What would that say to her about the power of prayer? About the ability and desire of God to help us? About her mother's faith? I remembered the promises God had recalled to my mind.
Oh come on, Lord, I thought. Can't you just send someone else to do the planting and let Molly assume I did it? I walked over to my porch rocker (after checking underneath for you-know-who). I sat and tried to get alone with God. I remembered how my heart had gone out to Molly last night when she was so scared, and sitting there it occurred to me that my heavenly Father cared as much, even more, about how I was feeling right now. After all he was the one who'd sent those verses to comfort me.
So I pulled on my gardening gloves and planted those plants.
I was tense at first, but by the sixth or seventh one I was singing. I knew I wasn't alone.
I dug my holes, added my top soil, got everything just where I wanted it. I fed and mulched and watered, and by the time I picked up Molly from school, my garden was spectacular.
We stood together admiring my efforts and imagining how it would look in a year or two.
"But, Mom, weren't you scared?" she asked. "What about the snake?"
"I won't lie to you, Mol. I was plenty scared at first. Then I remembered that I'm a child of the Most High King. Princesses aren't afraid." She laughed. "I tried to remember some of my favorite verses like 2 Corinthians 12:9."
We recited it together: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness."
"And Proverbs 18:10."
I let her take that one. "The name of the LORD is a tall tower. The righteous run into it and are safe."
"The weirdest thing happened when I was planting with my face close to the porch. I felt a cool—almost cold—breeze coming from under the house and realized why that snake was there in the first place. That old fellow was just looking for a place to get out of the heat. You know, when I realized that, for about a nanosecond I actually felt tenderness toward him."
"You're weird, Mom."
"I know," I laughed. "But I ain't afraid of no snakes." Well, not right now anyway.
Mimi Greenwood Knight is a freelance writer who lives in Louisiana.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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