Earlier this summer I was at a women’s retreat in Napa Valley, California. One afternoon we were directed to go on a “meditative hike” in a wilderness area nearby. The task was to walk, think, pray, and write down my reflections or responses in my journal. After walking for awhile, I sat down at a picnic table. I was meditating and writing in my journal, lost in my thoughts when, in my periphery vision, I saw something move on the ground. Just as I looked down, a snake slithered over my left foot. He was about 3 feet long, with alternating brown and off-white rings. I gasped and quickly jumped up on top of the picnic table. My heart was beating a bit faster and my breath had quickened. I peered down at the ground under and around the table, but could not see the snake. I had no idea where he had gone. After a few minutes, I jumped from the table to the dirt path nearby and continued on my walk. Later on, when I had cellular reception again, I did some internet research on the snake, based on my recollection of its markings. I determined what I had seen was probably a California King Snake who, according to californiaherps.com, is “Not Dangerous to Humans.”
Later that day, I processed this encounter and discussed it with the other ladies. I found it somewhat curious that my reaction upon seeing the snake was less extreme than I would have thought. The snake surprised me, and I was concerned enough to move out of its path, but I was not terrified and did not scream or otherwise react in an extreme manner. It was almost as if I instinctively knew that, although the snake looked exotic and was not known to me, it posed no threat of harm.
Of course, the snake or serpent is, in Western culture, often representative of Evil, or Satan, or the Devil. In the book of Genesis in the Bible, Satan appears to Eve in the form of a serpent and tempts her into committing the first act of disobedience to God (sin). Genesis 3. In mythology, snakes were often portrayed as coming from the underworld, the purveyors of evil. Think of Medusa, whose gaze would turn people into stone. Shakespeare also used the snake to represent evil or treachery. Lady Macbeth tells her husband to be deceitful like a serpent. Macbeth later calls Banquo and his son snakes because they are an evil threat. Most Westerners are, on some level, afraid of snakes.
Although I am wary of Satan, or the Evil One, like the California king snake, I am not in danger of any real harm from him. The reason for this is that I am a follower of Christ; I have accepted Him as my Savior and have surrendered my life to Him. As a result, I wear a cloak of protection against the Evil One. The outcome of the battle between Good and Evil is already known; God will always triumph. The Bible is very clear on this point. Though evil may sometimes win the battle, God will win the war. As a follower of Christ, I rest assured that “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3. I have seen and experienced this truth on many occasions. Although I may be tried, and may go through hard times, God has repeatedly protected me from real, lasting harm. I know this in my heart and I feel it in my soul. Because of this, I can remain calm in the face of danger and in the midst of the storm.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4