I have never had any sort of traumatic encounter with a snake but, nevertheless, I avoid reptile houses like the plague and pray incessantly anytime I’m in any sort of wildlife that God would keep them out of my sight. Remarkably, and with what I consider to be his great kindness, God has largely honored this prayer for most of my life. In fact, I never once encountered one in the wild.
Until I did.
I was walking around a neighborhood in Austin, killing time before going to see a show at a nearby theatre, when I came across a small house-turned-museum I went to on a class field trip as a child. I remembered that we were shown a secret passage the house had while on the field trip. Thanks to Dawn from The Baby Sitters Club I was obsessed with secret passageways as a child so it was fun to rediscover the house so many years later.
There were graveled paths leading up to the museum from all directions which were framed on every side with long grass and signs marking the land around the museum as wildlife preserve. With reptile-beckoning heat already blooming in Texas, it was the kind of sight that tended to make my pulse jump. If I were in the movie “Inside Out,” the green Fear dude would have pressed the panic button and started running around the control booth yelling, “SNAKES! SNAKES! SNAKES!”
I took a deep breath and prayed the same old, “God, I know they’re probably around – just don’t let me see them!”
I walked around the outside of the museum, half-reminiscing and half-scanning the ground. I went around to the back and was relieved to see that the ominous long grass of the wildlife preserve gave way to a simple, manicured lawn with a sweet little wooden bridge beyond it. It was picture perfect sight with the bridge standing over a beautiful stone creek and I couldn’t resist stepping onto the bridge for a better look at the creek. I paused and enjoyed some pretty thought in my head about God’s beauty in nature.
As I gazed at the small stream of water, the green fear guy pressed the panic button again as I registered what I was actually seeing. A large black you-know-what was on the move, right before my eyes!
Trying to remember how to move my legs so I could get the hell out of there, I was distinctly aware that this was a significant moment. In 32 years of hikes, childhood forts in creeks and summers spent in lakes, the only times I’d seen one these creatures was if I forced myself to look at one at a zoo or if some idiot decided to bring one to Times Square and make a few bucks off tourists. Even in my moment of panic it registered to me that for some reason God was choosing to remove His hand from my eyes so that I would see what had been unseen by me during previous wilderness adventures.
I made it safely across the bridge without it collapsing (the green “Inside Out” guy in my head was sure it was going to and I’d land right on top of the you-know-what).
It’s important to me to mention that the year this took place was an intense and significant year for me in my journey and relationship with the Lord. I think I spent the majority of that year on God’s surgery table with Him rotating through operations on my thoughts, emotions and identity. What was happening in my life at the time of this story made this particular encounter feel even more significant and intentional.
It seemed to me that with everything going on in my life and relationship with God that year, there had to be a deeper significance.
I couldn’t shake the thought, “God let that happen! Why did God let that happen?”
I asked Him to help me understand. Why, after He had kept my eyes from seeing the one sight that makes me come unraveled faster than anything else can, would He choose now to let me see one?
The following morning I met my counselor for our weekly session.
“You said it yourself as you told me what happened,” she said. “The snake couldn’t get to you. You were several feet above it, completely out of reach.”
No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed … This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:17
She leaned in slightly, “God let you see it because it’s time. You need to see that the enemy of your soul is there – but God won’t let him near you. He can’t do anything to you!”
The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. – Romans 16:20
“It’s time,” she said again, slightly nodding her head the way she does when she really wants to emphasize a point. “It’s time to be fully awake and to know that even though the enemy is there, his plans against you won’t succeed. God has you.”
And God has you, too.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. – Psalm 138:7