I will start by telling you about my mixed relationship with snakes. When I was young, like most boys, I thought snakes were awesome. I loved them. They were right up there with dinosaurs.
That was until my first brush with an actual snake on my own. We lived in upstate South Carolina at the time (my dad was a Marine and we moved around a bit). I was in our downstairs area looking through some boxes and…a small dead snake. My older brother convinced me it was a baby copperhead (one of the few poisonous snakes in the area). Suddenly I was scarred with reguards to snakes. I no longer felt the same way. From that point on, I was a bit freaked out by them, or at least the idea of encountering them in the “wild.” Sidenote: I have come to realize that the snake I found was actually a ring-neck snake. They are small non-venomous snakes.
This was only compounded several years later when I was in late middle school/early high school. We were living in Northern Virginia and Mr. Paul, who worked with the youth at our church, took the boys for a nature hike in the woods. He told us to look out for animals, and specifically snakes. I was, of course, on high alert. We broke off into groups, and as the oldest one there I lead one of the groups. We were walking around and saw something towards the pond. As we were walking, a couple of the guys said, “Look out!”
SNAP! Right at my heal was the snapping jaws of a black snake that barely missed me. Though I know now it is the wrong idea and potentially dangerous if the snake were poisonous, we ran away. The snake did not persue, but my fear did. I was now even more afraid.
A few months later, almost the same exact thing happened again as my brother and I walked home from the pool. The side walk went partially through the woods. We stopped to pick some honeysuckles, and TD (my brother) yelled. SNAP!! Jaws of a black snake next to my leg barely missing. Only this time we did the proper thing and backed away slowly (our dad had talked to us about what to do when we encounter snakes).
Anyway, these experiences have lead me to an unhealthy fear of snakes. I hated the idea of them. I love hiking, but was always uneasy about the snakes I knew were out to get me and usually anxious about the prospect of coming across one.
At some point, I don’t remember when, I decided to try to learn all that I can about them. As watching G.I.Joe taught me, “Knowing is half the battle. Yo Joe!” It seemed that the more I learned about the creatures, the less I worried about them. I even got to the point during one of my college summers working at a camp that I found a ring-neck snake and played with it instead of running. I knew it would not hurt me. The fear was going away. I started to not even be afraid of the poisonous kind.
That was until recently. Two years ago this month, my wife, son, and I moved into a house with a pond out back and woods near by. Snakes were not on my radar at this point until one day when we were getting ready to go to our church small group. I was holding a cake in one hand and my son’s infant car seat (with him in it) in the other. As I was walking up the steps to our upper driveway, I heard the familiar SNAP! I looked down to see a coiled snake just out of reach from my leg. I bounded up the steps and called out to LA not to come up. Our neighbor heard me yell. He came out and was we were both looking at the snake, it went under the steps. He told me that he was pretty sure that it was a copper head. My old fear returned. It was not about me this time, but it was about my family. It was my job to protect them.
I was freaked out about the prospect of snakes living around our house. I started to encourage the neighborhood cats to hang out in our yard by putting out treats for them! I was told that they discourage snakes. And I guess it worked. It was almost a year of peace before the issue came up again.
When we move into the house, the door to the crawl space (the space under your house) was warped. This caused huge gaps. I knew that this allowed a potential for things to make a home under the house. It made our list of things to work on, but there were so many other things that got higher priority (it was a foreclosed house and needed a bit of work…still does), so I put it off. I all but forgot about it, until I had to mow (I kept the mower down there).
Late last summer or early fall, I decided to make one last attempt at mowing and hoped it was the end of the mowing season. When I opened the door to the crawl space, my old “snake sense” was at high alert (as it usually was when I opened that door). This time, I was glad…because this time there were beady little eyes staring at me!
I tried not to freak out. I tried to keep my wits. I looked at the snake. It did not move much or coil up. It was alive, but it was still enough to let me get a good look. I looked it over and was pretty sure it was not a copper head or any other kind of poisonous snake (thanks to my self-taught snake expertise). I went and got my shovel anyway (something I bought after the last close encounter of the snake kind). I poked it with the shovel. Nothing. I tried again. It just looked at me. Definitely not an agressive snake. I probably should have left it alone. I didn’t. I know my wife. She would not be jazzed about knowing about a snake living under our house. I killed it.
Becuase of this experience, and my wanting to protect my family from snakes, the crawl space door gained some priority points. My dad and I, mostly my dad, replaced the door. No gaps anymore! Something that I should have done a long time ago.
Which brings me to my point. Earlier this year, I went through a study called The Lord’s Table (a really awesome study about our relationship with food…check it out if this is an issue for you). As a part of it, you reflect on the teaching and Bible passages. One day in March, I was reminded of me and the snakes, and it is the perfect analogy for sin. Here are the verses that brought this to mind:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it”. — Genesis 4:7
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” — 1 Peter 5:8-9
For me, a lion prowling does not evoke fear. That is not a part of my reality. I have never experienced a lion outside of a zoo. I need something more real. Something like snakes.
You see, to me, throughout my life snakes have been something out to get me. Always lurking. Always waiting. I need to be on the look out. I need to take serious steps to protect my family. I need to study them. I need to understand them. I need to “know my enemy.”
Why don’t I take sin this seriously? I need to view sin like I view snakes. I need to view the devil (and his desire for me to give into sin) like a snake. Out to get me. Something to take seriously. Something to take steps in order to protect my family.
Why do I let sin live in my house? Why do I invite it in through the TV through the internet. And I am not talking about the major obvious stuff, I am talking about the stuff that we take lightly, like primetime network TV. I do not take the steps to make sure there are “no gaps” that let the devil, the snake, into my life and family.
I need to wake up and take this seriously. Sure “Glee” is a great show, but do I need those thoughts and ideas in my mind and in my house? “House” is great, but the same thing applies. Even my favorite, “The Office.” Should I be so inviting?
It is more than just TV, but it is a great one to think about. I take it so lightly.
I know it is a constant struggle for us all. What do you think? What are your snakes?
Lord, please help me. I can’t do this on my own! Help me to view the things you hate as snakes that I need to protect myself and my family from. Please help me, Father, to “replace the crawl space door” of my heart so I stop leaving room for the snakes to come in. Please, Jesus. Help me. Amen.