We found the chair for $25 dollars at an estate sale in the fancy section of Dallas. It’s everyone’s favorite. I do most of my writing in it because it is my favorite, and also because it is nestled in a corner by the fireplace for when it is cold and by the window for when it is hot.
Yesterday I was sitting here, as I am today, scribbling away at some inconsequential writing and I looked to my left, where, 12 inches from my face, along the length of the window ledge, on the other side of a mesh screen and nothing else, lay a snake.
This was no little garter snake, this was the epitome of all my greatest snake fears. He was a full five inches around and a grand four+ feet long.
He was 12 inches from my face.
I’ve not kept this particular fear a secret. It was my greatest hesitation in moving to Texas, hearing stories of finding snakes in pantries and laundry rooms is enough to keep me far, far away from any of that business. But I surmised that God loved me enough to keep the snakes away.
It is not the fear of being killed by one that frightens me so deeply, but the fear of a snake finding itself comfortable where he is not welcome.
I heard an illustration once, and I’m not sure of the validity of it as a true story, but as an illustration it was brilliant. There was a woman with a pet baby snake who let the snake sleep at the end of her bed and as he grew he began to sleep more and more closely to her, cuddling, she thought, close to her for companionship. Soon the snake began sleeping uncurled, stretching himself along the length of her, and he began eating less. She was worried so she brought him to the veterinarian who told her the snake must be killed immediately. "Immediately?!" She was heartbroken. "Yes, immediately. That snake is measuring you and starving himself because he is preparing to eat you. Kill him immediately."
The illustration was about sin, of course, and the way we have our pet sins sleeping close and inching closer until they are measuring us in order to eat us alive. The story was more potent to me, probably, because it was about a snake—a koala or a flamingo wouldn’t have had the same effect. But I think that’s because God really wasn’t kidding when he talked about enmity between us and them.
My roommate and others kept assuring me yesterday that the snake wasn’t poisonous, even if it was unnaturally large for this area, that he wasn’t interested in eating me alive or lashing out at me venomously. But it is not death I am afraid of, I promise—I welcome the sight of heaven these days.
It is comfort I am afraid of.
It is sitting in my favorite chair and looking to my left, 12 inches from my face, and seeing a snake sunning itself on the window ledge, where he does not belong and where he especially is not welcome.
Sin, which this week I am so aware of in my life, and so startled at how closely it comes to me, measuring the length of me, the health of me, and the comfort level I have with it, it is sin that frightens me.
Last night one of my pastors, talking about sonship and the law and the great hope of the gospel, wept as he shared a particular area where he’d been tempted recently and how it was an uncomfortable wrench for his soul. He sought prayer from his brothers and his wife that morning, but it wasn’t until he simply stated the gospel truth: that he was called and chosen and a son of God, secure in his salvation and not a slave to sin any longer, that the temptations lifted.
I think about that this morning because I would like to think that all it will take to rid our backyard of this intruder is some timely and truth-filled words, but the truth is that snakes are more easily rid than sin.
Sin's only antidote is the gospel and the gospel is the simplest answer to come to us in the hardest ways.