There was a snake in the chapel today—way up high, wrapped around one of the ceiling rafters. Perfectly camouflaged by the dark beam, it was hard to see him at first. I couldn’t tell from where I cowered in the corner if he was a venomous viper, but I didn’t really care. The point is, snakes don’t belong in chapels.
Most of us staring up at the trespasser were frightened to see him in attendance. Our first thought was that someone should get him down—not us, of course, but someone. Now. Before he slithered out of sight and re-appeared under a pew. Holy gatecrashers, Batman. Can you imagine the chaos if he tried to cozy up around the organist’s feet?
A couple of men stood directly beneath the interloper, scratching their chins and discussing strategic modes of attack. The snake yawned, bored, rearranged his head under his viper pit—and went to sleep.
He was a silent intruder. A mute disrupter. A secret spectator. But his presence did what serpents always do--it distracted us. Nobody could concentrate on worship with a coiled snake balanced overhead. We focused on our fear and how to get rid of it—and the snake, too.
Maybe what we should have done was just sit down –a couple of rows back from the “drop zone”, of course—and enter in to the holy of holies as planned. Why worry about the reptile overhead aiming for your coiffeur like a skydiver at a state fair? It’s not like he could land on his feet, anyway. And quit calculating the trigonometry you’d need to scale the summit of an eighteen-foot ceiling using a six-foot ladder.
Okay, so I wasn’t one of the mighty men bent on removing the charlatan from God’s sanctuary. When it comes to spiritual warfare, I’m the one with flat feet and poor eyesight begging to be excused from hand to hand combat. Or in this case, hand to . . . vertebrae. Eewww. My husband, my hero, tried to see if he could knock the reptile down with one or two well-aimed, smooth stones. I just hoped his catch was as good as his aim.
We stood around in that chapel for a good forty-five minutes and never figured out what to do about the snake. No one had a ladder big enough. There weren’t any smooth stones lying around. The best we could do was take a picture of the crazy thing sleeping in the shadows overhead. It did absolutely nothing but show up, and our focus was destroyed. We gave our full attention to the disturbing creation instead of its Creator and left the chapel the same way we came in: frustrated, confused and a little defeated.
We haven’t changed much, have we? I think this is the same conflict that threw the whole human race into a tailspin in the first place.
Picture this: a snake shows up in Eve’s kitchen, acting like he belongs there, promising to improve her menu options, and the next thing you know, we’re all eating leftovers out of a dumpster. Why? Because she hadn’t been through Spiritual Warfare 101 and never learned how to tell a snake where to go? Or maybe it was Adam’s fault. After all, he had the throwing arm but didn’t pick up any rocks. Never mind the biggest question of all - snakes could talk? The bottom line is this: the only threat to their peace was the lie the serpent fed them. And they swallowed it - hook, line and sinker. Just like we all do.
It’s all about what we believe. Did you know the word ‘lie’ is hidden in the word ‘believe’? I just noticed that. Hidden lies. Interesting. We can believe truth or we can believe lies. We’re faced with both in every situation. And whether or not I pick up five smooth stones to exterminate the enemy when he tries to intimidate me, or choose instead to huddle with the rest of the frightened army, my response to the challenge begins with what I believe about God.
I can recoil from peace, let vain imaginations control me, and slink off in defeat, leaving the visitor overhead wondering if it was something he said. Or I can stand in God’s presence with soldiers at my side and snakes in the rafters, thanking God that He created them all and is bigger than they are.
I want to stand in the shadow of the Almighty and believe He stands between me and every assault on my peace. He said He’s for me. I believe He means it.