Years ago, I remember having been told how to pick up a snake (should that become an appropriate thing to do – I realize that not everyone is in a situation where they need to pick up snakes). When this is necessary, though, I was taught that it is important to grab the snake right behind the head. That way, while the tail may wrap around your wrist (which is a little creepy), at least the head doesn’t wrap around your hand – and bite you!
Disclaimer: Just to be clear: I am not actually suggesting that anyone – other than trained professionals – handle snakes at all. While God did save Paul from a snake bite in Acts 28:3-5, and He can absolutely do so today when He chooses to, I don’t believe that followers of Jesus are universally required to “prove” their spirituality by making unwise choices. We generally had little (non-poisonous) garter snakes near our house, so this wasn’t about handling rattlesnakes, vipers, adders, or pythons.
Anyway, while at church camp one summer, I spotted a little garter snake on the trail. For whatever reason, my young brain thought that it would be fun to pick it up. After doing so, I then proceeded to run down the trail to scare other campers. (I hope that you are nicer to others than I was back then. While this isn’t an article about being nice to other people…you should still be kind.) I wish that was the only unfriendly thing I did as a kid which seemed like a good idea at the time…sigh. At least I had been taught how to keep myself and others from getting bit, though.
On a related note, while listening to a sermon on Moses the other day, this passage caught my attention:
The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”-so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-
Exodus 4:2-4 NASB
As I mentioned above, if one were to try and pick up a serpent, the most logical thing to do (for the sake of one’s own integumentary integrity) would be to pick it up behind the head. Instead, Moses is told to pick the serpent up by the tail.
This passage falls during a conversation with Moses where he needed to realize that he had been selected for a job, and that God would take care of him when Moses did what God was calling him to do. A little faith-building was appropriate and, during that conversation, God gave Moses plenty of evidence that He was worth trusting. However, of the things God asked Moses to do, this situation required a little more “demonstrated faith” on the part of Moses: would he rely on self-preservation, or ignore a clear command from God? I suspect that Moses had seen his share of slithering creatures while watching sheep, and it would have taken some concrete faith for him to obey God and to do exactly what he had been instructed.
Of course, God was faithful and protected Moses when he obeyed, and later helped Moses lead the Israelite people through some of the greatest events of that nation’s history.
I hope you don’t have to pick up any snakes today. (If you work in pest control, or are employed in one of those labs that milks snake venom for medicinal purposes, you have my respect!) However, if you have a clear direction from God for a step forward in your life, and are afraid that life will bite back, remember this example from Moses.
Being irresponsible and putting ourselves in harm’s way – especially out of machismo or ignorance – isn’t a good idea. However, when God calls us to a mission, He knows what He is doing. Even impossibilities become achievable with His help.