By: Judith Hargett
And there it was. I had been expecting it all spring and had been keeping a cautious eye peeled for its appearance so as not to be caught off guard. And yet, I was. I stood up from my task of weeding the flower bed and came eye to eye with my dreaded enemy, the snake! He/she (henceforth, “it”) was wrapped through the branches of the evergreen bush like a garland in a Christmas tree. It looked me squarely in the eye and hissed, sticking out its tongue as an exclamation point of snakelike aggravation. I jumped and let out a screech. I may have spoken; really it is hard to say what dire utterances may have come from my mouth. Whatever I said left no impression on my audience though: It hissed again, just in case I hadn’t gotten the message.
Wasn’t I supposed to have dominion over this creature? For it says in Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” This definitely was a creeping thing.
“Well,” I reasoned. “Dominion can take various paths.”
My path led straight to my husband, who was conveniently mowing nearby.
He stopped the mower and walked over to see what the crisis was. Declaring the snake harmless, he shook it out of the bush into the flowerbed. “Hey,” I protested. “I was weeding that flower bed!” I immediately determined the weeding was finished. Pulling off my gloves, I headed for the safety of the kitchen. (By the way, anytime I mention harmless and snake in the same sentence there is a general outcry against the possibility of peaceful coexistence between those two words.)
With this experience fresh in my mind, I read with interest a scripture from my devotional a few days later. Jesus is talking to his disciples, trying to prepare them for the time of persecution that’s coming. He says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Hmm. Wise as serpents? (Some translations say “shrewd as serpents.”) What does that mean? Does a serpent have an admirable character trait? Is there something I can learn from it? After all, God cursed the very cunning serpent that tempted Eve (Gen 3:14) making it “crawl on its belly” the rest of its life. I’d better check out some commentaries. Uh huh, OK… yes, I can see that. A serpent will typically try to avoid danger. They’re very wary. They may give a warning when sensing danger and they usually try to slip away from the threat if possible. That is indeed wise. We can apply those principles when we go out into the “midst of wolves” ourselves.
Now. What about these other beasts of the field who pass through our yard? The furry, four-legged ones–some even wearing masks, who steal the suet cakes, trample our flowers, eat the remaining flowers, raid the blue birds’ mealworms and tunnel holes all through the yard? They certainly are not wise like the serpent, else they would recognize the danger they are in and flee from our, uh, relocation efforts. Well, there is that verse in Proverbs that admonishes us to care for our animals: “A righteous man regards the life of his animal…” (12:10), so we know God expects us to treat animals under our dominion with kindness.
I have tried to accept the snake as a creature that serves a purpose. After all, they help keep the mice and vole population under control and that’s a very good thing. But, if they sneak up on me, there’s no telling what my reaction might be. Really, I’m not telling.
Our guest post today was from Judith Hargett. She is a member of Cape Bible Chapel, and a devoted wife and (obviously) gardener. If you are a regular attendee, member, or Chapel missionary and would have interest in guest-posting on the Chapel blog, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.