To a man, a yard is a very special place. It is a place of toil and struggle, a place of frustration and discouragement, and a place that is home to many dangers, i.e. fire ants, allergens, pokey things of all varieties, etc…. However, it can also be a place of victory and glory. A place where we can take control of our little plot of nature and create beauty, even though the ground and all of creation itself seems to fight against us. This is a story about that.
On Friday, I set out to identify and fix an apparent problem with our irrigation system. I had noticed dead spots appearing in certain areas and found that I needed to replace several sprinkler heads. So, after a quick trip to Lowe’s I set out into the yard with a shovel, a bag of new sprinklers and my raw masculinity. I replaced several broken sprinklers and still found that there was a problem on one of the zones, it seemed to be lacking water pressure. So, I began to dig around each sprinkler to search for a problem and/or replace the sprinkler itself.
I had reached my sixth one. The sun was beating down hard and sweat was pouring off my furrowed brow as my dirt-saturated hands plunged the shovel down into the grass again. I got down on my hands and knees and carefully dug all around the small, plastic, water emitting mechanism. I found my way to the bottom of the device and discovered a crack in the tube near the PVC joint. I was overjoyed! Not because the tube was cracked, rather because I had found the problem and I could actually fix it. But my joy was brief, for at that very moment, while I was unaware, a vicious enemy was lurking. As I sat up and began to survey the job that lay before me, my keen surveying eyes surveyed something I had yet to survey before. A snake, coiled up just inches away from me, which had begun aggressively lunging in my direction. I grabbed my shovel and leapt to my feet, as if in one single motion. Thus the epic battle had begun.
Imagine that scene in Conan the Barbarian where James Earl Jones turns into a giant snake and fights Arnold Schwarzenegger (I know, now is not the best time for an Arnold reference…). Well, anyway, it was kind of like that. But I had a shovel instead of a huge sword and this snake had probably never been a human before and was also a bit smaller than the one in the movie. Actually, it was only about 10 inches long, but remarkably aggressive and threatening. He had amazing self-confidence or at least some reptilian version of little man syndrome because he seemed to believe that he was bigger than me. He wouldn’t leave! Even after my assault of sarcastic, verbal abuse, he continued to hold his ground and lunge at me. So, I had reached the point of decision. It was either, run away and be conquered by this little creature and live the rest of my life in fear that any time I step in the grass he may be there… waiting for me… perhaps laughing at me (or whatever snakes do when they think something is funny), or I could retaliate with unbridled fury and violence. So, I decided to take action and defend my yard, my family and my freedom. I plunged the shovel through the snake’s body and into the ground, and then proceeded to do it again, and again, and again, just to make sure. And after it was over, I couldn’t find the snake’s body anywhere. Had he escaped? Or had I driven him deep into the grass with my insanely, powerful blows? I couldn’t tell. Then I decided that my color-blindness might be a disadvantage in finding the brown snake in all of the green grass (that’s not a color range I can distinguish too well). So, like the hyper-masculine man that I am, I went and got my wife and asked her to help me search for the remains of the snake and confirm the kill. It took a little bit of poking around with the shovel but I soon discovered several pieces of snake and confirmed that I had in fact been victorious in the battle.
As I reflected back on this epic struggle of life a death I realized that I live in a spiritual reality that is all too much like the physical reality that I found myself in on Friday morning. I become engrossed in my work, my family and my ministry and I completely forget that there is an enemy lurking in the shadows that seeks my destruction. An age-old enemy of man that has himself known the flesh of a snake. He is a master of deception and subversiveness and, whether I am aware of it or not, he may be plotting an attack against me right now. I have never written about Satan before, probably because I don’t think about him very much. I think all the caricatures of the red man with pointy tail and a pitchfork are so hokey that they, in some way, served to make the whole idea seem like make believe to me. But, the Bible doesn’t treat him like make believe. It is a terrifying thought that there is, literally, an immensely powerful, spiritual being out there who seeks to “devour” me. And if the story stopped there I would probably never sleep again. To revisit the Conan illustration, I don’t have a sword big enough to take on a snake like that. I wouldn’t stand a chance. And this is where we, once again, turn to a God who does not leave us to fight our own battles, but who secures our victory for us. In the very beginning of the story, right after the fall in Genesis 3, we find what theologians call the Protoevangelium – the first gospel presentation. God pronounces a curse on the snake (the embodiment of Satan, at the time) “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The pronouncement that one day there would be an epic battle between Satan and one who would represent all of humanity. And though Satan would be allowed to land one good bite, it would not be a deathblow and in the end he would be crushed under the foot of this victorious Savior.
So, while we do have an enemy and we don’t want to live in ignorance of him, we also don’t need to live in fear. Ultimately, even his attacks fall under the providential hand of the God who seeks the good of those who love him and who has already secured the victory, crushing our enemy under His foot.