This morning while I was washing dishes and trying to get ready for Bible Study my crew decided to go on a 'bear hunting adventure.' Out the back door they dashed, decked out in hats, binoculars and backpacks. R had his Peter Pan bow and arrow while P carried his foam dagger.
They had barely been gone 3-4 minutes when the back door flew open and they burst into the kitchen with excited chatter.
"We found a weal snake!!"
"It is alive and it is HUGE."
"I think I heard it makin' a noise like a rattle sound."
"At first we thought it was just a root, but then it moved. It is really a live snake."
As the wife of a man who works long hours and is not always easily accessible, I have learned to toughen up and handle a lot of things on my own. I take care of bugs, dead animals, frogs, pet vomit and poop, car issues, mice infestations in the dog food, injured birds, chipmunks, etc...I don't enjoy it, but I can generally deal with situations when my man is not around. However, I have one true phobia: snakes. I do not like to even look at snakes on a screen or watch them through the protection of glass. Like most fears, it defies logical explanation--I just really, really, really do not like serpents!
I learned from experience a couple of years ago that our local animal control won't deal with indigenous snakes in your yard. Since this was 9 am and my husband is on call, I knew it would likely be 12 hours until he could make it home.
So, this morning, I was left with little choice. I got shoes (flip flops were the only thing handy) and a shovel as my weapon and headed to the area where the children had seen the slithery invader. (P kindly offered his foam dagger as well.)
As I wrapped my hand around the handle of the shovel I thought: Am I really about to go looking for a snake? Is it even possible that I have within me the ability to actually hack it with this shovel head? Lord, you better intervene. I know I need to keep my people safe from this threat, but ugh! I really don't think I can do this.
As I was thinking all of this I let out a large involuntary sigh.
All three of my people were right behind me, wide eyed and completely relying on my leadership and protection.
"You know," I told them, "Mommy is really afraid of snakes."
P put his hand on the back of my leg and said, "Mommy, you just need to pray for God to give you courage. Pray for Him to make you brave."
UGH! It was so sweet and so completely challenging at the same time. I did not WANT to pray for courage. I wanted to run back into my safe and cozy home and avoid the issue all together. But, how would I be able to let my children back out into the yard with this snake slithering around? I had not seen it yet. I had no idea what size or type of snake it was...and what if it really was a rattler? What about my kittens?
I knew I had no choice but to at least get a look at the snake. I ducked under the branches of a clump of trees where the children reported spotting the creature. The ground was completely covered in large, crunchy magnolia leaves. That snake could be anywhere.
"I am gonna stay back here, Mama. I am a little scared."
"Be careful, Mommy."
"He was over there."
I plunged the shovel into the ground ahead of each step as my eyes scoured the ground for anything resembling a snake. Nothing.
I slowly walked a few more paces. Still no sign of him. Just as I was about to assume the children, dog and cats had frightened our unwanted visitor away, I saw movement. Slithering along a few yards from me was a thin black and yellowish green snake. It appeared to be about 3 1/2 feet long and the circumference of my thumb.
Again, I was facing a choice: With an audience of kids behind me and a creepy, but likely non-threatening snake in front of me, what was I to do? I tightened my grip on the coarse shovel handle and I pondered my options. I took P's advice and prayed for courage---and wisdom.
Just then I heard the sound of a vehicle in my driveway. I peaked out from beneath the clump of cedar trees and saw that my savior had arrived in the form of a polka dotted truck from my landscaping company. This time my involuntary sigh was one of tremendous relief.
I am sure the children and I were quite a sight as we bounded towards their truck in 'bear hunting adventure' gear and Mama dressed for company and gripping a shovel.
Upon examination it was determined the snake was a non-poisonous garter snake. That news earned our little visitor a pardon for his crime of trespassing.
This Mama was reminded again of the importance of practicing what I preach regarding praying for God to grant courage rather than running away from something scary. I was also reminded that fear is real and often irrational. I was challenged to treat my children's seemingly irrational fears with a bit more tenderness.
Maybe snakes aren't entirely bad after all.