One of the challenges of living in Cambodia six months out of the year is snakes. They pop up when you least expect them. During our first three months of living here, there were several snake sightings in the yard. I never saw one myself, but the guys living in the dormitory across from my house always said the same thing, it was big…it was black…and it would run away by crawling up the bamboo plants next to the wall. Beyond the wall of our house is a wild area, perfect for all kinds of critters. I guess every once in a while the black snake decides to hunt on our side.
So here is the problem. Two Khmer friends were living on the property, and described the snake by gestures…making their arm go up as if in a striking position. It also appeared that they were describing a cobra hood. So naturally I Googled cobras and discovered YES there are cobras in Cambodia. Thus began the reign of terror in my mind. One night I was so overcome by my own fears that I cried myself to sleep repeating scripture, Bible by my cheek. It turns out that the experience I had with the cobra is a perfect metaphor for the anxiety I experience when I don’t trust God.
There was a communication gap.
First of all, I never saw the snake myself. I made hasty assumptions based on my own fear. This is often the case when life circumstances look grim, I seem to find myself believing the worst. I jump to conclusions. The enemy knows me. He tempts me to abandon ship when the ship is not really sinking. He tempts me to yell out, “Master, how can you sleep when the waves and wind are overtaking the boat?”
But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm. Matthew 8:20
I seem to live in a cycle. PANIC…CRY OUT FOR HELP…GREAT CALM. Why can’t I ever just skip the first two parts and go straight to great calm?
The facts were less scary.
One day I was by myself inside my house (we have three houses within the walls of our complex), windows open, when the constant bark of our dog Quondo drew my attention to the yard. I saw a dance going on between Quondo and the black snake. Quondo would bark, and the snake would rise up as tall as the dog’s head. Several things I noticed in my excitement: Each time the snake would take a strike posture, it would quickly turn to flee, it was terrified, and most importantly, I noticed it was NOT a cobra. But it was big. So I started yelling for help. Once Quondo killed the snake, with a little help from a friend with a shovel, I got a good look…a rat snake.
Y’all, I still didn’t like the idea of a snake on the property, but no one was going to die horribly. I had wasted all those days filled with the possibility of death when I never even considered that Jesus was in the boat. To be honest, ALL of my anxious moments in life turn out exactly like this. I find myself hearing Jesus say, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” My cheeks momentarily heat with shame, and then I enter into the calm of trusting Jesus. I need to stop assuming the worse.
Snakes in the yard
There evidently is a whole family of black snakes living on the other side of the wall because the incident above was not the last time I saw a big black snake. There were several more sightings and more observations on my part. The biggest surprise to myself was that my fear no longer crippled me. The day of our big Christmas event arrived. I went back to my house when I saw the snake drop down out of the tree in front of my house. I saw the direction he was heading and ran to find Quondo or one of the guys in the house. Everyone was busy, even Quondo. Surprisingly I found myself okay with that. I was living in the great calm that only can be experienced when Jesus changes a heart. When someone, like me, decides to start trusting, even though occasional snakes drop in.
I still don’t like snakes.
Just because I wasn’t overcome with anxiety over the prospect of a snake in the yard, that didn’t make me a snake lover…just watch me run! In keeping with this analogy, I could say the same thing about things I stress about. I am learning to trust in Jesus for my safety, but it doesn’t mean I am comfortable going through suffering. I still don’t like it. At all. And that’s okay. The point is that when the enemy presents a problem that seems like a cobra, I will remember this experience and try not to jump to a conclusion that will debilitate me.
Pictures: +Quondo my hero. She keeps the property safe from all intruders. When we wake up in the morning we often are surprised with the remains of an animal she has battled in the night. ++My favorite place in the world, the Montana ranch where my father grew up. This is a view of Snake Butte at sunset. The story goes that my great aunt was visiting from out of town one year when my father was a teenager, and she decided to go to the top of this butte to get some pictures. What she found on top was a nest of rattlesnakes. Legend has it that there were hundreds of them…anyway, there was a lot. My father and grandfather blew them up with dynamite. At least that’s the story. Appropriate for my Cambodian snake tale wouldn’t you say? The name Snake Butte stuck from then on.
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