I have discovered that nothing brings your mind more sharply in focus than a full grown venomous cottonmouth snake slowly slithering across your bare foot.
Most people reading this are probably happy to just take my word for that statement.
Even more people may think that I’ve lost my mind when I say that having that experience on Sunday afternoon was something that I viewed as an answered prayer.
I’ve been doing a lot of praying since this COVID-19 pandemic invaded our community. I’ve prayed for those who are sick, and that the folks I love won’t get sick – especially the ones least likely to survive it. I pray for all the people who are working to keep us safe, keep us healthy and keep essential businesses operating.
I’ve prayed that our newspaper will be able to stay afloat as our revenue dwindles while the local businesses that are our lifeblood struggle right along with us. I pray that none of us will get sick because our staff is so small that even one person’s absence for an extended time would be difficult.
I’ve prayed that my wife and I will be able to continually balance sharing our workload while also taking care of three children at home. We have a whole new appreciation for their teachers as we try to keep them on pace with their school lessons each day. We also share the duties of cooking and cleaning while taking turns at the office. Our dishwasher and washing machine seem to be in perpetual motion.
After a long day of work and teaching, I often find myself praying for a little more energy so I can take them outside to do something fun and take their minds off of the uncertainty that surrounds us all.
On Sunday afternoon after we had participated in Sunday school and watched our church service from my phone in our living room, I decided to take the kids out on our land to get some sunshine and enjoy the beautiful day.
I let them play while I tried to get a few things accomplished. One of those things was watering some trees that I had recently planted. My plan was to take a bucket and dip it in the pond to get the water.
The water was low so their was a lot of mud around the edge. I didn’t want to get that mud on my new tennis shoes so I slipped them off with my socks and carried on.
I was silently praying as I was working, and I was asking God for some kind of assurance that I was doing things the way He wants me to do them.
I know I don’t have any right to ask, but if you could just give me some kind of sign – something that even I can understand...
Moments after praying those words I stepped into the mud and lowered the bucket into the water.
Immediately I felt something crossing my right foot. I knew it was a snake before I even looked.
I glanced down to see a large cottonmouth. The snake’s head had just passed the edge of my foot and it was right on top of my foot.
At that moment my mind shifted into another gear. It was like everything slowed down tremendously.
I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I could hear myself breathing. I was somehow willing both to stay steady and calm. I could even feel the cool mud that was getting between my toes.
Most importantly, I could feel every little movement – and it felt like thousands of them – as the snake continued to slither across my foot and into the water.
As it swam away I let out the biggest breathe of relief that has ever escaped these lungs.
In that moment I felt like I just received the sign from God that I had requested.
A real danger had passed so close that I could feel it, but I was protected. It was almost like I could hear the words being whispered in my ear.
Stay calm, and have faith. Be the man I created you to be, and no matter what dangers may come, I will be there with you.
I don’t recommend trying to duplicate that experience, but it turned out to be just what I needed.