Have I ever told you my rattlesnake story?
So as far as I know I have only come across one rattlesnake out in the wild. It was way back in the last century. Somewhere around 1985. I was a student pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. I took about 10 folks on a backpacking trip to Linville Gorge in western NC. Mostly high school teenagers.
We got to the Gorge mid afternoon and our goal was to hike into the wilderness about 2-3 hours and then set up camp before it got dark. We were on a trail that dropped off into the Gorge on the right and had a steep rock face on the left. In other words, there was no way to veer off the trail even a little bit.
It was a sunny day but there was a briskness up in the mountains. One of the young guys was leading the way and I was pulling up the rear when all of a sudden everyone seemed to be backing up into me. The lead hiker pointer over his shoulder and said “snake!” One of the other adults on the trip looked that way and said “rattlesnake!”
Turns out Mr. Rattlesnake had found himself a nice warm place in the middle of our trail to take a nap. So at this point we had to make a decision. Here were the options that we considered: 1) We could turn around and go back and find a different trail; 2) We could stealthily try to step over Mr. Rattlesnake and hope that he did not wake up; or 3) We could throw things at him until he removed himself and got out of our way.
We chose #3 and all that did was was tick him off. This was when we had incontrovertible proof that the snake was a rattlesnake because he did his best Taylor Swift impression and started to “shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.” We were just hoping he didn’t “charge, charge, charge, charge, charge.” At this point I was glad that I was in the back. But that scenario changed quickly when our efforts finally encouraged him to move off into some brambles that led into the Gorge.
We gave him just a minute and then we hustled down the trail. It was at this point that I started looking over my shoulder because I know if I had been Mr. Rattlesnake I would have been looking for sweet revenge – because there is nothing that makes me more ornery than getting woken up from a good nap.
So here is the life lesson that I learned from the experience as I have reflected back on it over the years. There are always going to be rattlesnakes in your life that you will have to deal with. They will usually manifest themselves as people or problems that are standing in your way – keeping you from getting where you want to go. And there are generally three ways that you can deal with them: 1) You can allow them to discourage you and make you turn around from going in the direction that you want to go; 2) You can do something stupid (like try to step over a rattlesnake) that will only create more problems and cause much emotional, professional, or relational pain; or 3) You can do all that you can do to deal with the problem in a healthy, constructive manner and create a way to keep going.
There will always be rattlesnakes. The way that you handle them makes all the difference in the world. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Scripture is always a good place to start when dealing with rattlesnakes.
Never forget that you are very loved!