As an educator who returns to work in the heat of July and greets children for day one during the first week of August, the Labor Day holiday is a very welcome break and is typically reserved as the last real pool day of the summer for me. This year, I had my entire day planned around spending a couple of hours floating peacefully and drifting in and out of deep, relaxing sleep. The weather cooperated quite nicely as the temperature climbed to the mid 80’s with a nice breeze by mid-day. I downloaded a couple of my favorite podcasts, as well as the new Taylor Swift album, filled my Hydroflask with iced tea, applied sunscreen liberally and headed outside to enjoy the day. After getting everything set up just the way I wanted it, I put on my headphones, grabbed a float and proceeded to execute “plan relaxation.” The plan was going beautifully for about 30 minutes. I felt myself drift into that sleep where it’s possible that a drop or two of drool could roll from the corner of my mouth as the sun ducked in and out of clouds just when I would become uncomfortably warm. It really was a perfect day......until.
If you’ve spent any time on a float, you may be familiar with the sensation of things landing on your body and then flittering away. Typically it is a curious butterfly or sometimes an annoying water beetle or “sweat” bee. Maybe even a wasp or spider from time to time on an unlucky day. I have gotten used to the “shooing” motion that runs the insects off and rarely even look up from my state of slumber. But on this particular day, the sensation I experienced felt different. It took me a few seconds to clear the sleepy fog from my head, but when I did come to enough to realize what was happening, I immediately knew a soft “shooing” was definitely not going to be significant. I opened my eyes and looked down my torso to find a woman’s literal worst enemy. “I’m declaring war between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.” (Genesis 3:15 NLT) Yep, you guessed it, I was sharing my float with a snake. Albeit a tiny snake, but nonetheless, it was a snake. And I HATE snakes…ALL snakes….big or small.
It’s likely needless to explain my reaction, but let’s just say that “plan relaxation” came to an abrupt end. I flinched so hard the snake went flying and I could not get out of the pool fast enough. If he was going to be a swimmer, I definitely was not. As far as I was concerned an Olympic sized pool would not have been big enough for the both of us. I screamed so loudly that my husband (who was on the mower at the time) came running to see what in the world was creating such hysteria from me. Like a knight in shining armor on a white horse, he scooped the snake from the water, threw him forcefully against our stone wall and chopped him into tiny pieces with the head of a shovel. The snake’s life came to an end within seconds. I haven’t been back in the pool since.
I’ve reflected on that encounter several times over the last week and even more in the last 24 hours as my Bible study this week centered around the story of Eve. Here are a few things I’ve pondered….
1) Satan typically shows up very subtly, when we least expect it. That snake didn’t make a lot of noise or a big ruckus as it slowly began crawling up my leg. Before I knew it, there he was. He may have even been lingering on the float before I put it in the water or hiding in the pool vents. I don’t know about his capacity to bite….he looked to have been a baby….so he may have been fairly benign, but if he was capable of being vicious he definitely had himself poised to do harm if I hadn’t realized he was there. I was literally lulled to sleep when he arrived. That is why we are warned in scripture to “stay alert. Keep close watch and to not let our hearts wander off” (Deuteronomy 4:9 The Message) “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping.” (1 Peter 5:8 The Message)
2) Once I realized the snake was there, I got myself out of his reach in a matter of seconds. I didn’t hang around to see what might happen next and I’m hesitant to even go back to the water again. I am certain that I will be overly cautious and likely won’t nap in the pool again for quite a while. We need to have that same reaction to the temptation we encounter in our daily lives. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NLT) Far too often, we find ourselves getting right back in to the situation that draws us into sin. To quote my former pastor, “you can’t walk through a fire and not come out smelling like smoke.” Stay away from the fire.
3) When I found myself in a crisis state, it was nice to know someone else was there. Asking for help (or in this case screaming for help) does not mean you are somehow inferior or even weak. There are times in our lives when we just aren’t able to handle things all alone and we may need to lean on the support of others who are not as immersed in the situation as we are. If my heart hadn’t been racing and my mind wasn’t a tad confused as to what was even happening, I very likely could have inflicted the same fatal blow. But in the moment, I was sure glad to have someone there to do it for me. “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get….” (Ephesians 6:13-14 The Message)
4) We have a real enemy….it is not a tiny garter snake. Our enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy….and he’ll use the slightest moment of distraction or the tiniest crack in our armor to slither right in to our lives. We lined our yard with snake repellent the following day in hopes that we’ll never encounter a snake again. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he resisted Satan by quoting the truth of scripture. May I be equally diligent to line my heart with the repellent of the Word of God. “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 NLT)
I’m certainly not happy to have had my Labor Day pool time interrupted and if I never see another snake I’ll be fine with that, but I am grateful that even in the crazy stories of our lives, God has a message for each of us. Thanks for letting me share mine with you.