Snakes – you just can’t trust them. I know there are people out there that keep them as pets and it seems as though the bigger the snake, the more prestige they can provide to the owner. I’m not of that mindset and have never been so.
I was a teenager when I had the encounter that slanted me that way. We were fishing in a small pond and had discovered a flat-bottomed boat hidden on the bank in some brush. It was February and although it was unseasonably warm that morning, it was normally too early in the year to be worried about cold-blooded reptiles. Call us three young boys killing time on a day when there was no school to attend. We steered the leaking boat with a rotted oar out onto the pond and began fishing, oblivious to the uninvited danger lurking over in the shadows. It was a morning that was almost too perfect and held promise of being a memorable day for each of us.
Somehow we ended up on the side of the small body of water and the boat, carried by a mild breeze, began to float under a barren weeping-willow tree. Out of instinct I knew it was a bad situation, so I turned to our oarsman and advised him to steer us away from those ancient, moss-laden branches. No sooner were the words out of my mouth: I felt a heavy branch break off, fall earth-destined across my back, and land in the bottom of the boat. Pandemonium ensued as it was discovered that it was no mere branch that had flopped across my back – it was a snake! And the writhing, aggravated serpent had now joined us as an unintentional member of our fishing party.
Since I had become the newest, up-close and personal friend of the creature, I made the first move. I bailed over the side of the boat and into the murky depths beneath us. I was not alone in the cold, brackish water for very long as the middle member of our boat crew swiftly followed me over the side and we began our quest to find the nearest dry land. That left our oarsman alone at the helm, and the result was a boat now riding high out of the water on the end I had vacated, with the snake coiled up near the bow. Satan’s spawn was squirming and twisting in an effort to get away from the sudden noise and confusion that had only moments earlier ended his peaceful slumber in the old willow tree.
To the oarsman’s credit, he somehow guided the boat back to the bank. To our credit, we had an epiphany that if we used our gun to kill the snake, we would puncture a hole in the boat. In the end we used a broken log to pound the snake into submission and eventually dispatched him to his final, celestial dirt-nap. I have a picture in a box somewhere of three teenage boys holding up that dead snake alongside a tape measure, and his tally was forty-two inches in length. I felt no pity for the snake. He was, after all, not only uninvited but inherently dangerous. To allow him to share time with us in the boat as we fished would have been foolish. Someone other than the snake may have been injured.
Though we recognized and eliminated the threat on that early spring day so many years ago, I have not always been as wise in my life since that time. There have been other unwelcome and dangerous guests that entered my heart, and I allowed some of them to stick around far too long before I dispatched them. I’m talking about sins here; times I have let things hinder my relationship with God. At times I have been angry and I have held grudges. I have allowed lusts of the flesh and of the eyes to dominate portions of my life. I have wallowed in pride on more than one occasion. I’ve been known to become apathetic when it comes to how I live my life and I’ve back-slid many times in my spiritual walk with Him. Ah, you say, but those things are nowhere close to the level of danger imposed by sharing space with a poisonous snake in a small boat. But aren’t they?
Peter tells us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” Snakes always seem to surprise me. If I expect them, they are not a problem at all and are easily defeated. I’ve never encountered a lion in an setting other than at a zoo, but I would be extremely wary should I meet up with one, say, in a parking lot. Yet that is the way Satan works; he comes at me out of the blue and has many tools up his sleeve to use against me. He wants to devour me and is actively seeking to do so. Lions are fundamentally more dangerous than snakes, so what can I do besides simply remain sober and vigilant?
Peter completes the message: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” It looks like I am going to have to suffer with that old lion for a while and I know it to be so from personal experience. He is going to come after me when I least expect it and I have to constantly remain on the lookout for his evil schemes. But in the end, I have access to God (through His Son) who promises to strengthen and settle me while he stablishes me and makes me perfect. That’s a good promise to remember and a strong anchor to hold on to when sin drops unexpectedly into my life.