I’ve just finished reading “State of Wonder” by Anne Patchett.
The book is riveting and pulls me in, intrigues me. The story revolves around a trip to the Amazon during which the main character, Marina, is travelling down the river with some locals.
One of the locals grabs a snake. The snake is an Anaconda and in a moment of foolishness and false bravado he slides his hand up its body and tries to hold the head of the snake away from himself. It bares its vicious teeth and forked tongue as it writhes wild with rage.
Fight for life
What starts out to be an “adventure” quickly turns into a fight for life, breath and air as the snake wraps its body around both the man and a wee boy who had jumped into the fray. Marina, who is a Doctor and the other Doctor’s (all from the U.S.) watch in horror. Screaming, shouting out epitaphs and curses, the scene unfolds. Helpless, they look around the boat, then see a machete. Marina, with adrenaline coursing through her veins grabs the machete.
She begins to slice, chop and hack away at the snake desperate to free her young friend from the death-grip that he is in. The others jump in yank at the snake’s body. The head of the snake is chopped off but death has not claimed it yet, so it slides around the floor of the boat jaws looking to be filled.
Eventually, they prevail. The stench of snake reeks and blood is everywhere, but with the snake peeled off the boy they watch him intently. He is bruised and breathing with great difficulty, but, he is, at last – safe.
This story stirs me…and I think of another snake. The one who came to that first garden. The snake that invaded Eden, seeking to deceive, poison pure air with lies and death. First, it promises glory, but that first bite, though invigorating, changes their lives and all of history to come.
The Enemy, has come to “kill, steal and destroy.” John 10:10. But the lure and glitter he throws before us, often drags us into a net that tangles the limbs, sucks the fullness of life from us.
Father of lies
Sometimes, he is subtle, not blatant. He whispers in ears, “Did God really say?”
Thoughts come, a spider web of hissing insinuations…”This is too much, how could a God who loves you allow this?” “Where is goodness in all this rampant suffering?” “You don’t deserve this, give up, give in. ” Seductive, he speaks, “just this once, never again, no one will ever know.” “This is the stuff of myths, it’s repressive, suppressing – words of men alone, not God, not Him.” “You cannot survive, death is comfort, escape, release; no more stress, no more worries, no more broken dreams, no more…”
Habits form, cynicism grows weeds, doubt tortures, a life lived, short-circuited. There is also on the other hand, well-being, self-security, self-reliance, no need, no need for Creator. Happiness with a hole in the soul.
For the those who believe the Creator, the temptations come as well , the same words, the same doubts. The Enemy prowls ready to pounce. We think that like the locals in “State of Wonder”, we are embarking on an adventure, or that we have been hard done by. Slow but sure, the snake works itself around us, wraps its body – squeezing, squeezing life’s breath, hope, draining us, leaving us wanting.
Vanquish the Enemy
Sometimes, if we perceive this is the Enemy of our soul we rally, call upon the name of Lord, vanquish the blackness, the darkness.
On other days, we cannot see it, recognize it, the stench of snake overpowers us and we are choking, dying inch by inch.
The Sword we need
This is when we need one another, when those in Christ draw close, form a battle line. Someone, believes with us, for us, picks up the machete, draws the sword of the Spirit. “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. Heb. 4:12” That Sword begins to slice, chop and hack the snake that crushes life from us. Someone else, and then we ourselves can then renounce the spirit of death twined round our throats.
We are panting, and bruised – but we are safe.
Words of life
We remember the words of life. That we are promised life, abundant life. This abundant life is not a life free from trouble, sickness or tragedy as some would have us believe. This abundant life is recognizing all around us, every single day, the gifts of grace, the mercies new every morning. It is pausing to stop, to be mindful of the beauty each day holds whatever else it may also hold. It is choosing to believe that the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, goes before us; that He will never, ever, leave us or forsake us. It is choosing to believe that life’s most devastating moments can be and will be redeemed for good, somehow, in some way, some day. It is choosing to believe that God is Sovereign – that He holds my life in His hands and that He will give me what I need to face every day, every moment, every minute just as I need it.
These are the words of life that blow the stench of the snake back to the pit where he belongs.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.Ephesians 6: 10 -13