Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Lesson in Courage

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.
"Come quick!"
"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."
"Hurry, Mom!!!"

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.


Traci said...

Get thee to Target and get yourself a pair of rain boots- put them by the back door- put a hammer inside one of them. We have a creek in our back yard- we've had mice, snakes, possum, pit bulls, and even a Blue Heron- I've learned to be prepared. Oh, and the hammer will only help you with the mice and a bug or two. You'll still need the shovel for the serpenty things. Trust me.

JMom said...

Traci, I have rain boots, but won't leave them out for fear of what might crawl into one of them during the night....eek! :-)

Jenny said...

I am terrified of snakes... big, little, poisonous or not... it doesn't really matter. :)

Your kids are so sweet to encourage you to pray for courage. I always think it's neat when those lessons we've been teaching them come back as a lesson to us.

Gail said...

True about what might crawl into one of the boots...mice decided to nest in my husband's work boot!

Kate said...

Isn't that just like God? He asks for you to step out in courage, and then he takes care of the problem for you once you do. :)

I am not a fan of snakes. I think we might well have opted for alternate activities. I'm impressed by your courage...and the reminder about being patient with our kids' irrational fears.

I learned a similar lesson several years ago. I've always been quick to brush off a fall or minor accident ("Get up, you're fine...let's go"). I fell hard while hiking at Bryce Canyon. No major injury, just scrapes and bruises. I was traumatized, though, by the experience. I whined about it for the rest of the day. It really made me think about the way that I responded when my kids were hurt.

LS said...

oh my gosh. . .jmom. i have the same irrational fear of snakes. like you, i can't even see them on a tv screen of as a picture in a book. i am so proud of your courage. . .i think i would have holed up in the house even if my hubby wasn't going to be home for 12 hours!

Tara said...

You were very brave.

Stacy said...

I was with you every step of the way, gripped on your every word to see how it would turn out in the end!! Way to go in being the leader! Way to go in moving in on that fear! And thank God for the landscaping man!!

Glad mr. snake was non-poisonous and you didn't have to use the shovel after all.

Love how your little ones reminded you to turn to God. Out of the mouths of babes......you already are more than an example to them of a women centered on Christ, otherwise they wouldn't have known to say or do that! :)

Hope you have a quieter, snake-free day. :)

Oh...and we love the book "Going on a Bear Hunt." Loved it!

Much love,

Malu said...

Blessings upon blessings let us count them each one and see how blessed we are. Have you ever thought how blessed you are to have the triplets, they are not just cute , lovely and nice to be with.They are a proof of God's promisses.Praise to the Lord !!
Psalms 125:2
I also have an wonderful blessed family and this versicle above is a truth into my life.

Anonymous said...

I have blogged about my irrational fear of snakes as well when a couple were spotted in our yard by our landscape guy- just reading your story makes me want to pick up my feet under the desk!

GREAT reminder to pray about everything- and that God cares about everything too!

Thanks so sharing :)

rmslil said...

You are brave. I also have a big fear of snakes. Something about their wicked ways from the Adam and Eve story.
Our family business just relocated. The retail side is seperated from where we store things in our warehouse. My mom wanted to show me something in the warehouse the other day. I was following behind her when she flipped the warehouse light on and screamed "SNAKE". I took off running the other way and left her there. I still will not go back in the warehouse. I also was jumping at every little noise that day even in the retail side.

You are a brave woman to overcome your fear for your children.

storey said...

do you remember the day that i was there alone with them and they cam screaming saying, "storey, there's a snake in the vase in the video room!!!" and so i went in there and they were saying it was in the large pots next to the fire place...all of your same thoughts were going through my head...thankfully, it was a imaginary snake, i found out after they scared me to death :) sorry, your's wasnt!