Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
I don’t know if you have ever come face to face with a snake before especially if you are a city-lubber. If you've ever lived in rural America or vacationed/camped/woods-walking, you most likely have.
Snakes are God’s creatures just like the birds and deer, but for a reason God granted most of us a healthy fear of snakes.
My favorite Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal were really upset, all atwitter and fussing up a storm in the ligustrum right outside Mom’s bedroom window. Flitting from ground to branch to the top of the roof back to the ground. Their bleating was almost like fingernails on the blackboard, but I guess you’d have to be older than dirt to remember that sound. It was definitely not melodious.
I figured it was either a snake or some critter after their nest. So after I had finished spreading cypress chips in the flower bed, I went to see what was so upsetting. It didn’t take but two seconds of peering between branches and I spotted the snake. I was nose to nose with it. I backed up a foot or so. It looked blunt-nosed, not diamond shaped or pointed so I was pretty sure that it was harmless. It was entwined around the ligustrum’s thick middle trunk and resting along a branch right about eye level and very content. He smiled.
I know you think I'm crazy for thinking a snake can smile, but I promise you, this one did. It was one of those contented, everything-is-right-in-my-world kind of smiles. I can still see it today.
The Cardinals didn’t care if he was smiling or not; they wanted it gone. I went inside, searching for the Louisiana Snake poster, to check it out and make sure the thing was harmless. Couldn’t find it. When we moved to town, I remember taking it off the hall closet door and rolling it up but after that I can’t remember. Anyway, we didn’t have it.
All kinds of thoughts went through my head… If this is a good snake and it eats bugs and mice and nasties, then it will be a good thing to let it alone, right?
If this is a bad snake what happens if we step outside the door and step on top of it? It’ll get mad and bite, right?
Even if this is a good snake, it might bother the birds or bite the cat. (After our cat Scooter had chased Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, he spotted the snake and backed away quicker than ready, skipping the fixen part.) But if this is a bad snake, I can’t just grab it behind the head, what if it wraps around my arm? Shudder! Oh, I hate having to deal with snakes.
I had a rake in my hand. Oh, no, not that kind. It was the kind to rake leaves, not the good, sturdy, heavy, many-pronged kind that could hold the thing in place even if I let go of the handle. I stared at the snake and he stared right back.
His smile widened!
There was nothing else to do but get rid of the snake. Maybe I could get him to wrap around the rake handle and I could sling him out into the yard so I could adjust his living quarters away from the house.
He was stubborn. He turned his nose up at the rake handle and slid further along the branch. Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal sat on top of the clothesline chirping and bleating and ordering me to get rid of it.
Scooter was on the porch watching everything well out of the line of fire should I choose to sling the snake and the rake from here to the next hemisphere. I wished I could throw that far.
After a little coaxing, the snake wrapped half his body on the rake handle and was still clinging to the ligustrum branch. A game of tug-o-war ensued with the snake as the rope. He finally realized if he let go of the branch and the handle, his middle wouldn’t be stretched like a rubber band. That same instant of his realization, he dropped to the ground and he headed directly for the hosta bushes.
I screamed out, "Oh, NO you don’t! I’ll never find you in there."
These plants are beautiful and thick and lush. If that snake had made it in there, I would never have found him.
It was a race after that. The tines on that rake were as flimsy as leaves in a stiff breeze. I’d come down on him and he’d wiggle between the tines, headed for the cool, dense hosta forest--forest to him, anyway. He made it to the concrete foundation and revved up to top speed. God granted me the speed of lightening because that’s the only way I could have possibly raked that snake from between the ligustrums to the open yard with those flimsy rake tines.
We had a face off. He’d try for the house and I’d block his way. He made it clear he didn’t really want to go anywhere but back to the ligustrums. I was trying to herd him toward the back yard.
Have you ever tried to herd a snake? It isn't a satisfactory activity.
He finally got mad at me and coiled up and that’s when I saw the rattles on his tail. Little bitty ones, but definitely rattles. I promptly laid that rake flat on him, effectively pinning him to the ground. Enough pressure and snakes stay pinned pretty well. Then I shouted for Mom to bring a shovel.
The tricky part was letting off the pressure just enough so she could give him a good whack with the edge of the shovel. That paralyzed him.
So I let go of the rake and took the shovel.
I cannot describe how it feels to take the life of something. I shuddered and tears streamed down my cheeks. It makes me cold and I can hardly breathe--not when I kill a bug, mind you, but something that smiled at me so sweetly. It is a horrid feeling and I wish to never feel it again.
Life is a lot like killing snakes. Problems come, temptations arise when least expected. The Great Dragon invades our space and we are so tempted to just let him lie. After all, he never starts out doing anything drastic. He just lounges there... smiling.
We can’t ignore the snakes in our lives because they can rise up and bite us with or without provocation, with or without venom. It’s like the grass fire that gets out of control and turns into this raging forest fire. Most of the time we tend to let the fire get out of hand before we start to do somthing about it. Then we need help putting out the fire. It is the same with getting rid of the snakes. We all need help with our problems from time to time, whether they are little ones or huge, Goliath ones.
I think God did that on purpose. He wants us to lean on Him first and foremost. Then He gifted us with the help of our siblings in Christ. Two cords are better than one and three cannot be broken. The only protection we have is the whole Armor of God and we must put it on daily. The general never puts armor on his soldiers. The general never buttons up the overcoat of his army. The soldiers put it on and button up all by themselves. It is expected of us to put on the whole armor. Only those who have the armor can fight the battles and withstand the fiery darts. And only those with swords (or shovels) can kill snakes.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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