Things That Kill
by Dan Morse
While we’re in the thick of wintry days and this afternoon’s intermittent snowfall I’ve been looking back over this past year and thinking about warmer weather….
What brought them on I don’t know, but last summer was a banner year for venomous snakes around our place. Others I’ve talked to that have far more Crook County history than me have made similar observations. Within fairly close proximity to our home we had several visits from the scaly and poisonous reptiles. The first encounter tried to make a cautioned acquaintance with my mom as she walked down to our place for a visit. Mom heard the rattle warning and looked down to see a fair-sized rattler within a half-yard from her feet. We thought this first snake visit was an anomaly and we promptly relocated him to another part on the property, far away from the house.
The next three encounters were within close range of the house. The dogs called my attention to the one next to the garage and the other two I came upon myself. These middle three had a less optimistic future. Having kids and grandkids often around the place puts the necessity of a quick dispatch as priority one for these unwelcome guests. And, thankfully, the odds are never in their favor. They were all good-sized and the rattles made impressive Christmas gifts for my grandsons.
The last one was the largest of the five. I went up to check the spring behind the house and one of the dogs was acting nervous. Sure enough, a decent sized rattler had fallen into the water trough and couldn’t get out. The snake and dog were engaged in a steel-eyed standoff. It took a bit to maneuver the snake out of the trough but I made him mad and he was ready for a fight. I kept the dogs at a distance and when everything was over I’d reasserted strategic control of the water trough and gained another Christmas gift. This fellow was about forty-two inches nose to tail. All five were entirely capable of inducing a poisonous bite to all creatures unsuspecting.
It so happens that I’ve got a game camera up at the water trough to keep track of frequent four-legged visitors. The first part of October I went up to check the camera and to my surprise there was a video of a decent sized mountain lion, and then another of two yearling mountain lions, drinking out of the water trough. Now I understand that human encounters with cougars are rare, but I also know that in these types of interactions, cougars, as with most wild animals, are not exactly Disney-like in their engagement with perceived threats. The point is this - Crook County and points surrounding are full of things that can kill. We’d best pay attention to the threats around us.
In almost all of the cases above the threat was close and I was unaware. I think there’s a parable here for us, that is, if we have eyes to see it. There’s an old familiar hymn that has a verse that says this,
Thro’ many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
- John Newton, Amazing Grace (written in 1772)
The hymn writer is looking back on his life and saw God’s protective hand when the threats and dangers were plenty. I’m afraid often times we don’t even see it when we’ve a menace headed our way. Every day there are things around us that can kill us. They may not have bite and venom but they’ll destroy us nonetheless.
Consider this, one of the quickest ways to kill a marriage is by mistrust. One of deadliest enemies to any relationship is unforgiveness. Tell a lie and find out how quickly your reputation comes to nothing. Cheat others and don’t be surprised that those around you begin to scatter. Relationship traps are everywhere. There are a myriad of snares all around that are lying in wait for the opportune moment. The hymn writer saw them and thanked God for His providential protections.
In an obscure Old Testament passage the writer says this,
“The soul who sins shall die.”
- Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV)
The writer understood the connection between sin and death. There are cumulative effects to transgression and each one drags us further to the grave. There are provocations all around us, enticing us to engage them, and in the end if we give them half a chance they will have their way with us. They will kill us.
My takeaway from last summer’s close brushes with snakes and mountain lions is this…be aware that there are dangers about. Very real dangers are around that can destroy us and bring death. Be aware. Stay vigilant. Keep your eyes peeled. And if you do fall prey be quick to confess and repent and trust that the God that sees all also forgives all. The Apostle John weighs in on this with wisdom. He writes,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
There may be dangers and death all around, but there is forgiveness and life, abundant life, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Dan and Judy Morse live in Prineville, Oregon. Dan recently pastored a church in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at email@example.com