By George A Bowers Sr.
I guess I'm one of those crazy people who actually likes snakes. To my wife's great consternation, I have three as pets (all in aquariums). The snake is a truly unique creature and capable of some incredible feats impossible for other members of the animal kingdom. Their downside is that you usually see them when you least expect them and they scare the bejebes out of you.
About 40 years ago, my cousin Guy and I were going around the riverbend. This was a mostly dirt road that went down from my home on the Valley Pike, followed along the North Fork for about a mile or so before winding its way up the steep S-hill and coming out on Route 11 again near Guy's house. Since it had little traffic, it was great for hikes and bikes, and the fact that it brushed the river was certainly an added bonus.
One afternoon, Guy and I decided to run/walk the riverbend for fun. We started out at my home and were about half way around jogging along the roadway by the riverbank. As we ran, I happened to look down and see my foot right in front of the head of a brownish snake. My adrenalin kicked in and my jog instantly turned into a sprint as I yelled, "Copperhead!"
Guy eventually caught up with me and I told him what had happened. As we talked between breaths, our fears increased. One of us had heard that snakes often follow you (which they do not) and so that motivated us to keep moving. It also prevented us from going back to verify that what I had seen was not a brown stick, but was indeed a snake, and that it was in fact a copperhead as opposed to a corn snake, a milk snake, or a young black rat snake, all of which resemble copperheads to various degrees. Fear does that. It keeps you from accurately identifying your threats and keeps you running 'til you're exhausted and confused.
A half mile later we were still out of breath as we continued to push ourselves along, glancing over our shoulders occasionally to verify that he wasn't gaining on us. He wasn't. In fact, if it was a snake, it probably scared him far worse than it did us and he likely either froze in his "tracks" or slithered unobtrusively into the grass beside the road, awaiting some toad or mouse for dinner.
How many times do we run from things we aren't even sure of? How many of us are still running from things in our pasts that may not even have actually been harmful? How many times do myths and stories we've heard fuel our fears and keep us running for no reason?
Let's ask the Lord to help us examine those things that scare us, and to get the facts before we continue to run in fear. Let's ask Jesus to help us face them and if need be, take appropriate action to keep "real snakes" from biting us as well as those of our imaginations. And let's not live our lives running from our pasts. Oh God, redeem and restore us. Protect and bless us we pray. In Jesus name, amen. Blessings, George
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, "Wit and Wisdom of the Woods." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.