One of the most frightening trials I ever faced in my life happened in Kakamega Kenya in 1988. During lunch one day I heard panicking screams outside the window. I was puzzled until I heard the word “Nyoka!” Immediately the panic made sense. Nyoka means snake, and in Africa that could easily spell “death.” Two of the world’s deadliest snakes inhabited the area I lived in. The Green Mamba and the Black Mamba were feared killers among the Kenyans. They were nicknamed the “Three-step snakes,” because if you were bitten, you had about three steps to live. So with no time to waste, I jumped into action, soon to find myself in trouble way over my head.
Now normally they say that adrenalin is a good thing, but I would like to say there is also a downside. It seems that in situations like this, and I know from personal experience, that it happens to suck too much blood from the one organ that needs it the most, ie the brain. That seemed to be my case. I know that because when I needed my brain the most it was quite unresponsive and my reasoning skills shifted into low gear. For in a hasty search for snake-attack weapons I grabbed, if you can believe it a rake, and a dull machete. Then I darted out of the house and headed for trouble.
I was already sweating under the hot sun that day when I arrived for battle and my sudden approach spooked the vile serpent. As soon as it saw me it let out a hiss and slithered for cover in the dirt. Reaching forth with the rake in my left hand I was able to pin its tail to the ground. The coup de gras would be to hack it to bits with my sword - or so I intended, but the snake had its own strategy.
Meanwhile, quite a crowd stood helplessly by just watching. Just then I was caught off guard and taken by surprise as the snake slipped through my rake trap and slithered into a nearby hole too small to fit its entire body. Aha! I thought. “I’ve got you now right where I want you. With confidence rising, I plunged my weapon right into its belly. (Actually, it took a number of attempts, owing to the dullness of the blade.)
Meanwhile, the terror-stricken and totally awed crowd stood helplessly by, watching their hero at work. At this point, I would like to say, I was not responsible for what happened next. I was “temporarily insane,” - were the words my wife used and I should have taken the advice often repeated on tv that says leave this to the experts.
Now snakes like subtle twists and happy endings, and so with a subtle serpentine twist, the tables were too quickly turned in its favor. Catching me off guard, the viper twisted out of its lair and surfaced and headed directly towards me to make a stance. We were now face to face, with only three short feet between us and it was hissing mad. Endless moments seemed to pass. Suddenly it uncurled and assumed an uncharacteristic position. Chills went down my spine. The snake wasn’t behaving like a Mamba. It wasn’t lying flat like Mambas do, instead it was gaining altitude…flattened its neck… I had been dreadfully mistaken, it wasn’t a Mamba after all, it was … it was… yes, A SIX-FOOT BLACK FOREST COBRA WITH A, ‘YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME’ ATTITUDE, and I was suddenly aware that I had bitten off much more than I could chew.
But, being the man of faith that I was, I immediately and without hesitation… did what came naturally, I froze… and waited … without any plans… without any hope.
By now the terror-stricken crowd was probably wondering what in the heck I was thinking. Well, I was beginning to wonder to myself if it was a Spitting Cobra, and if so, would it be a smart move to close my eyes?... No, I thought, that would be stupid. “So is standing still, I mused,” hoping my feet would respond, but they didn’t. Panic had set in, and every second I delayed brought me closer to feeling the sting of death. In my dilemma I felt like the children of Israel with the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind them. I was helpless. I couldn’t face this giant alone.
Here was a second time in my life that I have known what it is to have a Savior. One who deeply loves and cares for me and is ready to give their life for me. This time
God used a very unlikely source to rescue me. For at that moment, out of the terror-stricken crowd appeared an old barefoot woman hurrying forward. With undaunted courage she quickly intercepted the snake before it could strike any damage. Using a long stick she furiously whacked the snake from head to tail, till, like a rag, it lay lifeless. As the dust settled, silence filled the air and when it was certain that death’s threat had ended, the crowd raised a cheer. Then old woman turned to look at me, raised a toothless smile and went her way. I was sweating and speechless, but alive and very obliged. Very!
When I look back upon that day, I realize how well David’s words could put it in perspective when he said, “Because he has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Ps 91:14&15 I would only add how happy I am that God is so merciful that even when I step out of His will, I am never out of His care.
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