The setting for God’s peace
by Gloria Small
Early March was a wonderful time of year. The hot winds of summer were still weeks away. Our parsonage sat in the midst of the Kissatche Forest just a few miles out of the twin cities of Pineville-Alexandria in the state of Louisiana. Pineville had been the location of an army training camp during the second great "War to end all Wars."
The Red River flows through Alexandria and there are many small rivulets that empty into it along the way. We liked to fish in the streams and there were some great feasts from those forays into the old campgrounds. In late spring, we would pack up the children and a picnic basket and head out to the thickets to pick black berries that were as big as the end of your thumb. The children would eat as many berries as they picked and end up with purple stained mouths and hands. The memory of the jam made from those wonderful berries makes my mouth water with anticipation. Not even "Knottsberry Farm" jam could match that full black berry taste. It was a happy time for all of us.
Of all the times during the year, spring was my favorite. The breeze whispered through the wonderful tall white pines and the song they sang lulled me to sleep many nights. The pines were soft needled and the cones they produced huge. When time permitted, I loved to walk through their halls. The dropped needles were a cushion beneath my feet and the sun painted a dappled pattern on the paths as I walked. In the morning, you could see the trails the armadillos made in their "nose to the ground" search for grubs and tender roots.
This place, of all the places we'd lived, was the most peaceful and beautiful. Our parsonage yard was a lovely place as well. There were Azaleas in a multitude of hues and soft petals of the Camellias, the graceful Mimosa tree and of course an old gnarled Crepe Myrtle tree in the side yard.
Experiencing God’s peace firsthand
The day had begun like so many others, I had hung wash outside and it had already dried and been taken in. The children, there were only three at home at the time, were out side playing. The windows were open and I could hear their murmuring as they played in the sand box in the side yard. Before I knew it, it was near lunchtime and I fixed a bite to eat and then went to call the children in. I looked out of the bedroom window at the three of them playing together in the sand. For a few minutes I just watched them. They had made roads in the sand and all three, including my baby girl, were running their toy cars and trucks along the roads. They had even set up make-believe filling stations and trees made out of twigs dotted their sand paved road. I smiled to myself and thought it was really nice to see them playing so peacefully and I almost hated to break up their make believe game.
Just then I saw some movement under the crepe myrtle tree that shaded the sand box. There, at the base of the tree was a coiled snake. I could feel the panic well up in my throat and I put my hand over my mouth to stifle the scream that was trying to force its way through my vocal cords. It was then I felt a hand of calm touch my heart saying, "Peace be still." To my amazement my voice gently told the children to lay down their toys and get up slowly and come into the house at once.
They obeyed immediately! Now that in itself was a miracle. Usually there would be an argument. The "please just a little while longer, Mommy" or "we don't want to come in now." Because, of course, they knew that after lunch was nap time. But, there was none of that now, only obedience as they left their toys in the sand. As I look back on that time, I know that it was the LORD'S hand protecting my children from the danger they did not know they were in.
As they moved to obey my voice the snake rose as if to strike. There was no time to pray then, no time to call on the name of the LORD. Only the grace of God kept that snake from striking one of those tender arms or legs. Only that peace He spoke to my heart kept the screams from tearing out of my throat. The children did not even see the danger that lurked beneath that tree and blithely came running in for lunch.
Once the children were safely in the house, I set them to washing their hands and I went to the garage and got a spade. With out thinking I went to the sand box and raised that sharp spade and brought it down again and again on the snake until it no longer moved. I left it there and went back into the house to feed my children, shaking with a sense of righteous purpose.
After lunch, I put the children down for their nap and then went back out to scoop up the snake and put it into a small cardboard box. Then when I saw the snake that I had severed into many pieces I realized just what the LORD had saved my children from. The snake was a Copperhead! Now, my body shook with emotion as I fell to my knees in thanksgiving. My mind raced with the "what ifs" and I knew I had witnessed my very own miracle that day. God had given me the strength and peace I needed to act with in His instructions. The snake was dead, the danger gone.
Remembering God’s peace and mercy
Now years later, the LORD brings the day to my mind and the lessons of that snake are clear as if written in stone upon my heart. I could not have done what I did in my own strength. My panic was calmed by the voice of my Savior. "Peace be still" is His message in the face of whatever situation I may face.
The danger of that snake is like the danger of sin. It must be cut out and dealt with at the time and not left to imperil my soul and my testimony. And there are times that the LORD will allow "snakes" to come in to my life. I need to listen to His voice and heed His instructions. If I do, the outcome will indeed be peace and safety. How grateful I am for that miracle the LORD allowed me to partake in and the lessons that keep re-enforcing His perfect will in my life.