As July melts into August, our little family settles into life in the South. While the majority of southerners hibernate in air conditioned living rooms, I prefer to take in the heat, as if still defrosting from thirty-one years of below freezing winters. Bike rides in the front yard, homemade lemonade in the afternoons, and long hours at the neighborhood splash pad. I love the fact that clothes put on the line at one o’clock in the afternoon are dry by one-thirty. For a girl who said she would never go south, I’ve gone south, if you know what I mean.
There’s a stereotype about the south that people are friendly. It’s so true. We know our neighbors fairly well already and I always get chatted up at BI-LO. Two Sundays ago when we arrived home from church, we even had a visitor. It was a four-foot brown snake curled up in the shade of our porch.
I am not even kidding.
It was almost enough to make me price moving trucks back to Ohio. Instead, in a panicked state, I texted my sisters. My younger sister’s response: You’re kidding me. Oh, I wish.
“Is it poisonous?” my older sister texted back.
Of course I had already checked online. There are no poisonous brown snakes in upstate South Carolina.
“So what’s the problem?” she asked.
Um, it’s a snake? Maybe that didn’t register from her townhouse in downtown Columbus’ Victorian Village where the nearest snake is fifteen miles north and in a zoo. Or maybe she just simply forgot snakes are inherently evil.
But I had not forgotten. That is why I did not go outside for the rest of the day, even after the snake had moved on. This was a normal reaction to an encounter with a snake longer than my first-born child. However, some other reactions were a little less rational. As Phil reentered the house from a brave, brave venture out, I screamed,
“Shut the door, shut the door!”
The door was hastily shut.
“Lock it! Lock it!”
This time there was only a look.
I got the same look later in the day as I folded laundry in our bedroom. I couldn’t shake the image of a snake slithering around and in a fit of mania, grabbed my unprotected ankles and leapt onto the bed.
Just a long, long stare.
“What? You never get the heebie-jeebies?”
I’ve heard it said many times that fear is not a rational emotion. I beg to differ. When you take into account the things that can and DO happen in life, you begin to realize how legitimate fear is. People get cancer, die in car accidents, miscarry babies, lose jobs, produce prodigals, and a myriad of other unhappys. The chance that you or I will experience one, two, or possibly even three of these pains is almost certain. That’s some seriously scary stuff.
Jesus’ talked a lot about fear. Often He acknowledged the reality of something to be feared, but offered a word of instruction or comfort. An example of this is John 16, when He plainly told His disciples they would have tribulations, but told them to “take heart—I have overcome the world.”
To put it in my modern-day parallel: Yes, you will encounter evil-eyed serpents, but take heart (and stop wearing those ridiculous rubber boots in the yard)—I am the one who crushed the snakes head.”
It comforts me to know that Jesus never said, “Oh don’t worry about such and such, it’s no big deal and probably won’t even happen.”
No, Jesus laid the snakes of life out on the table...
It’s going to be scary.
But I am in control. I will be with you.