Monday, May 16, 2016

On Fear and Snakes

On a recent trip to the zoo, I watched a rattlesnake and a tortoise who shared an enclosure.

The tortoise decided that he wanted to move into a nearby hollow log.
The snake was in the way.
And the tortoise stepped on the snake.

The snake coiled up ready to strike.

But it never did.

It rattled its rattles,
but stopped short of actually striking the tortoise.

Perhaps it had learned that it hurt too much to attack a tortoise.

He flexed his fangs for a bit, as if remembering a recent battle.

The tortoise just continued on, oblivious to the threat.


Locked in an intense battle,
One we could not afford to lose
But one that we could not win on our own.

We called for help
And he showed up, taking on our battle as if it was his own.

With his help, we defeated the enemy, and our reason for fear was gone.

So, if the reason was gone... why was I still fearful?

Ever been there?  
No matter how much they say not to be afraid?
That place where fear has moved in and taken up residence?

There are good fears...
As children we were all taught to avoid a hot stove for fear of being burned.
Good fear.
We were taught to look both ways before crossing a street.
Good fear.

The kind of fear that I am talking about does not serve a useful purpose. 

This kind of fear just drains your joy.  And your peace.

When we were only a few years into our married life, 
we planted our roots and our cute little mobile home 
in a small mobile home park.

Those were our early married years before children, and our little home was perfect for us.

We were actually three at the time, because we had a dog.  
His name was Samson in the hope that just shouting, “Go get them Samson!” 
might deter any would-be-bad-guys from trying to break in!

Sweet Samson.

He could never have been a real threat to any bad guys because he was just a little thing! 
All white except for two little black marks on his nose that made his nose look like a heart.  

And anyway, he was afraid of his own reflection!
Scared himself silly when he accidentally walked up on a mirror one day.

In those days, we lived close enough to where Bud worked that he was able to come home for lunch.  
One day as he was walking up to the door,  I let Samson go out to greet him. 

At the steps, Bud looked at me and said, "Get Samson back in the house!".
I called the little pup in and he bounced back up the steps as quickly as he had run out.

I looked down at the ground to see what the concern was all about.

It did not take long to recognize the markings. 

That was a diamond back rattlesnake.

And it was lying right next to our front doorstep.

There was nothing handy to use to fight the snake at that moment.
So the snake shook his rattle for a few seconds and then made its escape
... underneath our little home...

and we began the task of getting it out.

And moving it far far away. 

As in forever away.

We asked out park owner to come and help.
He was the only one we knew with the right equipment to rid us of the snake.

The whole thing took up most of the afternoon, but when it was over there was no longer any reason to be afraid of that snake.

Seriously, the snake was gone and would not be returning.


Just the same, fear had moved in, settled down and made itself comfy. 
And now fear did not want to leave.  

"What if" was the question of the day, of the year!

It was a long time before I could just walk out of that front door without wondering...
Is there another one?  Another snake?

 I would open the door slowly and look all around before stepping outside of the door.
Just unsure about what was waiting for me.

I felt as if my fear gave me some kind of control to keep bad from happening...

Fear can't keep you safe.

One day there was another snake.

It was right next to the same steps by our same front door.

It all happened just the same.

Only this time, the snake was not a dangerous kind.

Unfortunately for the snake, I did not know that.

This little event shook me and my faith.  Where was God when I needed Him?
Why couldn't He keep snakes away for good?

Why couldn't I just have a safe life?

A safe life became an idol of sorts.
I longed for that kind of life.
The life where everything settled into a beautiful place.

I was certain at that time that if I did not have safe, then I would break.

But God...
Time and again He showed me that hard was not going to break me.

Because time and again I did not break.

But it was not because of me. It was not my strength.  I have none.  

It was because He was holding me through it all. 

And I grew closer to Him in it all.

He isn't letting go. 

The things I fear, the unknown things that keep me awake at night?

They can not keep their false promise to destroy me.

Because God keeps His promise to be near.

His nearness is the only good thing I can depend on.

And when fear starts to creep in, I am learning to ask myself this question.

Even if - what then?

Even if the worst thing happens... what then?  

Even if I lose everything?   I will never be forsaken.  

Even if I fall apart?   He will hold me together.

Even if I break... 
He will put me back together in a more beautiful way than I could ever imagine.

I can't say that if you trust God, bad things wont happen.  They will  happen.  

But we don't have to fear them.

A safe life, one without trouble, is not our good.  No matter how good it may look.

His nearness is our good.

Sometimes things like the snake that "was" make me worry about a possible snake that "is".

Something bad happens, and fear takes hold.  Fear doesn't let go easily.

I worry that some little "is" might still be lurking around just waiting to make an appearance.

I can't live my life in fear of "is".  

So, even if... what then?

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us.  
I'm absolutely convinced that nothing-
nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, 
thinkable or unthinkable- 
absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love 
because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8-the Message

We don't know what tomorrow holds
or even what may be waiting when we take that next step out our front door.

But He does, and His grace will supply every need...even if.

We just can't let fear win this.


Locked in an intense battle,
One we could not afford to lose
But one that we could not win on our own.

We called for help
And He showed up, taking on our battle as if it was His own.

He defeated the enemy, and our cause for fear was gone.

Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me,
guarding, guiding all the way. 
Psalm 23:4 (TLB)


Lisa Appelo said...

Fear is such a bully! But you're right that God gives us the way to overcome fear. And I find in the thick of it, it can be an hourly or daily battle.

Debbie (and Bud) said...

Exactly! its been one of my biggest struggles So thankful that He doesn't leave us helpless!