A legend goes that, while on a 40-day fast atop a hill sometime back in the 5th century A.D., St. Patrick was surrounded by snakes. He jumped up, wielding his staff, and drove the serpents into the sea, banishing them from Ireland forever.
To me, this very nearly makes St. Patrick a hero. We have snakes in our backyard, harmless ribbon snakes with yellow stripes down their backs, and if I had the power to drive them away, I would.
A non-aggressive species, I know they’d sooner slink off than strike out at me. But whenever I see one slithering through the grass, I shriek and jump up on the nearest piece of lawn furniture. I should love all God’s creatures, even snakes, but I’m unreasonably terrified.
How often do we react in fear over something that isn’t necessarily harmful? I run away from something different, maybe even–to my mind–disagreeable. Perhaps it is a new situation or opportunity, but all I see are negatives.
I’m looking for the soft familiar fur in which to cuddle. But what’s in front of me is scaly and slippery. There are many unknowns, and I’m afraid to step forward. But isn’t this just the time when God asks us to trust Him?
Stepping out means taking a risk. I try to tell myself, is that so bad? I may learn something from the experience. Or, the situation that I’m dreading may turn out to be innocent and harmless after all. Just like those little ribbon snakes in my yard.
Opening our minds and looking at all angles helps us face new opportunities with wisdom and boldness. Of course, if you hear a rattle…run!
Scientific evidence suggests that the St. Patrick legend is untrue, but simply a metaphor for his casting out evil and spreading Christian influence. Even so, I’m going to try to be a little kinder to snakes.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!