THE SERPENT UNDER MY DESK
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
SEPTEMBER 5, 2014
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Cor. 12:9)
All of us have weaknesses, and though it is embarrassing to own them, we can take courage from Paul’s example, for he “let it all hang out,” so to speak when writing to the Saints at Corinth.
I’ve written before about my fear of snakes, having found two teeny little snakes last year about this time, one in my kitchen and another in my utility room. Every time this fear surfaces, and God’s grace gets me through it, I hope it’s the last time I’ll have to deal with it, but clearly, that’s not the case.
Yesterday, I got up, fed the kitties, and came out to the office to scoop the poop. My kitty Tom was crouched on the floor looking under the double desk in the middle of the room. He moved several times to get a better vantage point. Then, he hissed and I knew there was something alive under there.
My iPhone has a flash light and I used that to peer under the desk where Lenny’s leather knee braces have been since he passed last year. I saw what I thought was a snake wound around and through the braces. I ran to the bedroom, threw on my jeans and got the LED flashlight which is very bright. Sure enough, to my horror, there was a snake under there.
I called 911 and told them there was a snake in my house and could they PLEASE send someone right away. The operator told me they would send someone “as soon as they could,” which didn’t sound soon enough for me. I called my cousins who live down the lane from me, but neither of them picked up. The animal control officer called me right then and said he was on his way. I asked him to come around to the back of the house because I knew I had to keep my eyes on the thing or it would slither away and then I’d have to pack up and move.
He got here quickly and brought with him a medium sized trash can and a snake hook. It took him less than a minute to capture the creature and carry it wriggling and trying to escape, out to the back porch where he put it into the trash can. I had held my hysteria down barely, but after he left, the questions began.
Why God, Why? About God’s sovereignty, a friend wrote, “If God isn’t in control of everything, then He is in control of nothing.” How true that is. My beloved Lenny regularly disturbed the Baptist men’s Sunday School class by asserting about some calamity or another that worried them, “It’s all God’s fault.”
By that, he meant no disrespect to our heavenly Father, but merely was paraphrasing Paul’s declaration, “For God consigned all men to disobedience that He might have mercy upon all.” (Rom. 11:32)
The snake in question was about four feet long, I’d guess, a young one, and it was not poisonous, probably a black snake. Thus, the amount of heart thumping terror that the sight of it filled me with was far in excess of the danger it posed to me. It’s scary to find a snake under your desk where it so doesn’t belong, but it’s not life threatening. I knew that God was behind it all and He had something for me to learn about myself. How I wish He had a less traumatic method, but I’ve learned over the decades of dealing with my fears, that His perfect love does cast them out. If they never surfaced, they’d never be loved away.
Battling my fears has been a life long adventure. He told me once that I ingested fear with my mother’s milk and yes, both my mother and grandmother were VERY snake phobic as well. The dictionary defines phobia as, “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something, such as a fear of germs or a fear of snakes.”
Since the snake itself posed no real threat to my physical well being, I knew that there was another reason for its VERY disruptive presence in my house. Paul wrote. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph.. 6:12) And, he didn’t leave us guessing about how the confrontation between us and them would go: “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.” (Col. 2:15)
In other words, back in my charismatic days, I feared the devil and battled him everywhere until the Spirit shined His light on Paul’s advice to “give no place (opportunity) to the devil.” (Eph. 4:27) Fighting the devil is futile because he has no real power other than what we give him, whoever or whatever he is.
The absolute sovereignty of God is the foundation of our eternal security and our temporal tranquility. After last week’s writing on God’s will being done, another friend wrote, “Just reflecting a bit here on what you’re were saying about God’s sovereignty and His will being done. I was just thinking the other day, how scary it would be if God’s will isn’t being done all of the time. How scary if, because of what WE do or not do, He is unable to work all things after the counsel of His own will. What if it was up to us to figure out what was best, and pray properly before God could or would do His will? God purposes [even] all the wrong thinking for His purposes also.” End quote.
God’s will is that no one will be lost (II Pet. 3:9), and He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), using even a snake under my desk my good. I began non-stop seeking answers from Him with whom we have to do.
Symbols are powerful tools in His arsenal to show us His intentions. The snake symbolizes good and evil, a legacy from the serpent in the garden, which told Adam and Eve that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, would make them like gods. That began our life long struggle with thorns, thistles, and cactus patches.
To backtrack a bit, I’ve been feeling the need to find some fellowship “with skin on” here in Neosho, and so I decided to check out a local church by attending Sunday Service there. Even as I was keeping an eye on the snake beneath my desk, waiting for the Animal Control officer to deliver me from it, the thought came to me, forcefully, “Do not go to that church.”
Why not you ask? Since all of us are “standing on the same step before the righteousness of God” (Karl Barth), maybe it is to protect them from me, rather than the other way round. I had attended a funeral there a few weeks ago and the place was peaceful and I liked the pastor, always a plus. Interestingly, the church itself symbolizes good and evil to me, a place where you go to learn about right and wrong so you can do one and avoid the other. It also symbolizes for me a box in which one enters to meet with God. The problem is that each church has a little different agenda about how one must behave in order to meet God in their box.
What I’m writing is for me only, not for anyone else, for God calls others to attend church or not for many divergent reasons. As for me, I have learned to practice quick obedience in order to return to the place of peace and rest. Apparently, I was following my own guidance system rather than His and needed to be shocked back on track. Only He gets to direct my steps.
I realize all this sounds fanciful at best and delusional at worst, but the fact is that as Richard Rohr says, “God is both intimate and ultimate.” He cannot be summarized in words, nor put into a box. He truly is all powerful and all control is His. His processing digs ever deeper, like a roto rooter, until all that is within us is laid bare. That’s the purpose of the processing, to show us what has been holding us back, or hindering us from achieving the peace and rest we seek in Him. He is the ultimate fellowship we need, and He is there for all of us when we need Him.
Father, we thank You for being there for us through any cactus patch we find ourselves in. You came to deliver us from all our fears, no matter how silly they seem to others. We give you praise and worship, honor and glory, now and forever. The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth. Amen.