A few years ago we were living in central Ohio and conducting a ministry there. The parsonage where we lived had a pond in the back yard. Actually the pond was more like a bog, where mosquitoes grew healthy and large. Near the pond, all round the back yard, the ground seemed only a few feet above some sort of subterranean water source that kept it rather moist the year round.

Not infrequently, as I rode the lawn mower during the summer, I would come upon a snake moving through the grass. On one or two occasions I came upon them so quickly that the blades of the mower parted them in at least two pieces. I became so accustomed to them that I began to watch for their holes to more or less steer around them.

At our evening meal a time or two I mentioned that I had seen or had run over a snake that day while mowing. My wife, my mother and I lived in the parsonage, at the time, and I knew my mother disliked snakes very much. Her fear of them, though, was nothing compared to that of my wife. Her attitude toward them was that of pure terror! I didn’t dwell long upon my “snake experiences” because of their disgust with the subject.

Past Experience

When our older two children were young school kids, we lived in Grand Rapids on the ground floor of a small house we shared with the owner who had an apartment upstairs. To give the children a fun outlet I decided to buy them a pair of garter snakes. The small snakes, each about two feet long, we named “King” and “Grit,” King so-named because he was a couple of inches longer than his fellow serpent.

When my wife learned how I had spent Saturday morning with Melony and Ken, at the pet store buying our new “pets,” she was, shall we say, not pleased! We assured her, though, that we were placing them in a glass cage with a secure woven wire lid. After only one night, we learned that “secure” for us did not equal “escape-proof.” In the morning, we had to round up the snakes from, as I recall, the underneath side of the couch pillows. As the children and I conducted our search for the missing snakes, my wife had stood in the middle of the living room looking around in stark terror and was not without vocal expression regarding her dislike for our new friends.

This time, we placed a weight on the cage lid giving assurance to my wife who was more than a little apprehensive about it all. She checked back with me at bedtime to ascertain that this time the cage was, indeed, escape-proof. I confidently assured her it was and dismissed her concern with the comment that they were not poisonous. With eyes large with uncertainty, she retired to the bedroom.

“Dad, they’re gone again!” Ken awakened me with the Sunday morning news. We hurried around to play snake roundup before getting ready for Sunday school. Throughout the day, my wife made it clear that she was not in favor of keeping the snakes. I determined, this time, to make their cage really secure. Before bedtime, after evening church, we placed some bricks on the cage and checked for cracks which King and Grit might turn into escape routes. There were none. We all went to bed to get a good night’s sleep.

Blood Curdling

I can hardly recall the time, but it was well into the night. The children had been bedded down for several hours and Jane and I were sleeping peacefully. At least, that is what I thought. All at once the apartment air was pierced by the loudest, most pitiful and ear-splitting scream known to man! Jane bolted upright in the bed. “Oh, no, one of the snakes had gotten out and had curled up beside her,” I thought. It was not so.

“The snakes, the snakes,” she could only stammer. It seems the snakes had escaped only in her nightmare. I raced out into the dining room to observe their prison. All was secure. That, however, meant nothing to my wife who was still trembling in horror over her experience with the “escaped snakes.”

Melony and Ken were awakened by it all. Then and there we agreed that our serpent friends were creating too much wear and tear on their mother. We aroused them from their cage and went outside with it, returning them to the great out-of-doors. We agreed that, under the circumstances, snakes for pets were probably not a good idea. Later we found Grit and held a brief funeral for him. He apparently had succumbed to the shock of being so summarily returned to his native habitat.

The Snake at Hand

As I recall, it was the next day after my last mowing that I entered the basement of our Ohio home through the garage. There was no light switch near the entry door from the garage into the basement. A pull chain was available after one had traveled a few feet into the basement from that side, however. As I made my way into the darkened basement room leading to the stairway, I noticed a form lying partly concealed behind the trash can I kept there for use during the week. In the darkness it was hard to make out the shape exactly but the head of a snake seemed at least partly visible and was of some size, larger than King or Grit had been, for sure.

I reached up for the pull chain on the light, thinking as I did how I was going to deal with a snake in this basement so full of things to hide behind. “Wait, don’t disturb him,” I told myself. In the semi-darkness I retreated to the garage and quietly located my large pointed shovel. I stole softly back to my position to observe any movement the snake made. There seemed to be no awareness of my presence. I determined to deliver the coup de grace!

The Death-Blow

Doing my best to move silently to a position of advantage, I decided to try to deal the snake a death- blow with the rounded part of the shovel. If I could catch him in that way he would be crushed between the heavy shovel and the concrete floor. Straining my eyes for a final look at his shining head, I raised the shovel as high as possible to the ceiling and swung with all my might.

It was a perfect hit. The shovel scoop bounced off the basement floor with a mighty “clang.” The form before me lay motionless. Jane, hearing the crash from upstairs, appeared at the top of the stairs. “I just killed a snake,” I shouted, trying not to sound triumphant. “Switch on the lights,” I called. She did.

Not Always
Now with the lights on, I moved in to observe my “kill.” Above the trash can, I usually hung my morning walking clothes. The “snake” I had “killed” was my black leather belt which had fallen from its place, probably shortly after I had hung it there that morning. Of course, the “shiny head” was the buckle.

I learned again, that day, that “things aren’t always what they seem to be.” Unfortunately, however, this works for serious matters as well as silly ones like those I have just described. My serpent was not real, no more so than those in Jane’s nightmare. There is one serpent, however, who is real. That is Satan. Satan is as real as is God. The Bible makes that so clear that no Bible-believer could deny it. By using God’s Word as our shield, we can defeat his evil purposes in our lives. Satan, “that old serpent,” can make wrong things seem so attractive. Beware! It is not always so.

Visit us soon for a Sunday morning service. 11:00 o’clock.
Pastor Ken Pierpont