Snakes and Ghosts

Six years.  That’s the longest period of time I lived in any one house as a child.  We moved a lot.  My sophomore year of high school we moved four times.  My parents moved for the fortieth time on their fortieth wedding anniversary.  One would think that we had experienced a vast exposure to many different places and people, which could have been the case had we ever left Liberty County, Texas. Throughout the many moves, I remained in the same school, except for two years in a neighboring school district.  We joked that we must have gypsy blood.

But the home most remembered is the rough cedar house built by my father in which we stayed the longest.  It was in the country with large oak trees in the yard, much room to play outdoors, and my grandmother living in the house behind us (also built by my father and previously inhabited by our family).   We slept with the doors unlocked and windows open with no worry of intruders.  At least not the human kind.

It was not uncommon for snakes to get in the house.  I remember my mother placing us all on top of the dining table as she ran off with the broom to kill a snake.  You’ve got to be really good to kill a snake with a broom!  But the combination of her protective instincts and a serious hatred of snakes brought great strength and success.  Needless to say, this episode created in me a fear of snakes, especially under my bed.  Nevermore at bedtime did I approach the edge of the bed gently, sit down and pull my feet up to lie down.  No, from that point on, going to bed involved great athletic skill.  I began running from the door and leaping the last few feet, pulling the string to turn off the light while in mid-air, hoping that once my body hit the mattress the string would not still be in my hand.  (Pulling the chain out of the light fixture was a most distressing thing to our father; however, the need to protect myself from being eaten alive by snakes far outweighed any fear of reprimand.)

Nighttime brought a myriad of sounds – the rattle of the attic fan, the rustle of leaves in the wind, the symphony of frogs and crickets.  One of the large oak trees happened to be just outside my bedroom window, and on a bright moonlit night the swaying branches provided the moving shadows that often turned into ghosts.  I don’t think I ever told anyone I was afraid of ghosts.  But I remember the heart-racing fear of the unknown, the inability to move as I was sure it was more than a shadow coming after me, strange, new noises just outside my window….

There were worse things than pulling the chain out of the light fixture.  One of those was to wake my father in the middle of the night.  It just wasn’t an option.  At some point during my prayers to be invisible I would fall asleep, and awaken the next morning relieved to discover that the ghosts had not captured me, or whatever ghosts do to people.  All was well.  Until bedtime came again.

I don’t know exactly when the shadow ghosts left me and the other ghosts moved in.  As my life began to unfold, they slowly and subtly crept in to invade my peace, keeping me awake many nights.  Perhaps they’ve visited you as well – the ghost of past sins, or the ghost of bad choices.  Maybe the snakes under the bed lie waiting for you, too – the snake of shame and regret, or worst of all, the snake of fear.  He was the strongest, cunningly whispering in my ears that I would never truly be loved.  I tried for many years just to shut my eyes and pray to be invisible, or run fast enough to leave them all far behind, but they always found me, and the morning sun no longer chased them away.

Behind the confident smile and the strong personality, the voices of ghosts ruled my life until I began to understand all that God had done for me.  Jesus conquered every ghost and frightful enemy when He died on the cross.  When I finally took my eyes off the ghosts and snakes, and set my gaze steadily on Him, they began to leave me alone.  They had no choice.  Here’s why:

“O Lord, our God, other masters besides You have ruled over us, but we will acknowledge and mention Your name only.  They, the former tyrant masters, are dead, they shall not live and reappear; they are powerless ghosts, they shall not rise and come back. Therefore You have visited and made an end of them and caused every memory of them, every trace of their supremacy, to perish.”  Isaiah 26:13-14

How cool is that??  God is the REAL ghostbuster!

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