When I was a child of perhaps eleven or twelve my family went camping for a week on Lake Buchanan near Burnet, TX. We had a small boat and stayed out till almost midnight fishing in a slew the first night. Sometime well after dark we began to see snakes; water moccasins, cottonmouth. They began circling us and, before long, we had perhaps ten or twelve serpents of various sizes circling the boat, looking for a way in. Apparently they are a curious species. My little brother huddled in the bottom of the boat shivering in fear.
The next day we set out snake traps. You catch a small fish such as a perch or bluegill, perhaps two to four inches long, and instead of releasing it, you pass a piece of fishing line through its gills, leave about four to five feet and tie the other end to a tree or root at the waters edge. The fish is now tethered in the shallows. At night water moccasins cruise the shallows looking for food. When one swallows the tethered fish he is trapped. He swallows it head first because of its fins, but since it is tied securely with nylon line he can't get away, and he can't spit it back up because of its fins!
The next morning we went out and checked the traps. I would lay out on the prow of the boat as my stepfather would nose it up to where we'd put out a trap, then cut the line and pull the snake into the boat. I'll never forget their eyes. Small, red, beady eyes. I've never seen such malevolence, such hatred. Their mouths would gape open displaying fangs the length of my finger dripping with venom. They don't actually make any sound, water moccasins. That actually makes them even more terrifying.
I have a picture of me back at the camp holding one up that was as long as I was tall, perhaps five feet, and as thick as my arm, perhaps three to four inches across. I thought we'd killed all the serpents. How foolish I was.
My demons all have the beady, red, malevolent eyes of the snakes that I thought I'd killed. They all have the gaping white maw with long curved fangs dripping with venom. They are neither dead nor gone. They all live under my bed in the darkness, lurking there, ready to strike if I am so foolish as to reach under.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. Genesis 3
With the 4th and 5th steps I'm now told I need to reach under my bed and, one by one, pull out my demons and hold them close to my breast while they strike at my soul, pumping the venom of my past into my body, ripping out bloody chunks of whatever self esteem I have mustered.
Jesus told us that; ...these signs shall follow them that believe... they shall take up serpents... Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents... and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Mark 16:17 and Luke 10:19. But He was saying that to His disciples.
Before I asked Him to guide my life, I felt like a falling leaf, screaming insanely, hysterically into the wind. After I was filled with the Holy Spirit it was as if He had reached out and plucked me from the maelstrom and had grafted me back onto the vine. I still felt the storm raging around me, whistling past my ears and whipping my body, but I felt rooted. I felt so strongly rooted that I knew I could not fall again. I knew that there was nothing I could do to maintain that bond except to accept it. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
But it is by works that I maintain my willingness to accept that grace, feeling perhaps that I must earn the right to be loved. Feeling perhaps guilty for the pleasure I feel in helping others. It is by fellowship with others who believe in Him and who understand addiction that I find the strength not to hide from Him, ashamed of my nakedness.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18
Am I truly capable of following Him? I think I know why Peter reportedly asked to be crucified upside down; I don't even feel worthy enough to read His word. How can I feel worthy of His touch? Am I not evil? Am I not a daughter of Satan himself? Do I not despise those around me, hating their faults because I hate my own, hiding my self-loathing with verses, quotes, and pithy commentary?
In Antony and Cleopatra, William Shakespeare wrote; In time we hate that which we often fear. Carl Jung wrote; Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. Do I have to love myself before I can love others? If I can only despise myself do I have only the capacity to loathe those around me? Can I not be His disciple, accepting the power to take up serpents until I love myself? Is the only way to love myself that of seeing myself only through His eyes? If so, how can I see through His eyes or understand through His thoughts; how can I comprehend His magnificence when I am so insignificant?
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
What happens when I am forced to scratch into the mire that lies in the depths of my soul, releasing the stench of evil from my past, tasting the bitterness of the wickedness in which I once reveled? How can I face such wickedness and not want to recoil from His touch, as if I, by touching Him, could contaminate Him. As if I, so evil as to feel kinship with the serpent, am frightened of His touch, even experiencing pain from the clarity of His gaze.
As odd as it seems, the darkness beckons me. It seems comforting to give up, to consider myself beyond help, unworthy of my own love, let alone His. Being driven by the maelstrom seems in a macabre sense preferable to relying on Him for shelter from the storm. Is this why Christians leave His way? Is this why those who are evil will scream to the mountains Fall on us! and to the hills, “Cover us! (Luke 23)
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” 2 Peter 2.
I'm a runner. I always have been. I truly do not know if I will be able to do my 4th step, simply writing out evils of my past, handling my serpent demons one by one, being forced to apologize to my monsters for my pathetic and ill-fated attempts to strangle them. If I can't even write it out, how can I discuss it with another person? I ask God to forgive my wickedness, but I can't even verbalize the words to describe the bile for which I am asking forgiveness.
How can I face a woman whom (who? whom? Inquiring minds want to know) I respect and love (in the disciple sense... get your thoughts out of the gutter!), and who I think of as a friend; how can I face her and verbalize what I cannot verbalize to God. It would do no good were my confessor a stranger; then I wouldn't see the point of the exercise and I still have the issue of not being able to even write this stuff down. Yes, I know that you 'think' that I've written it down here because you've read it. Let me assure you that I have yet even to disturb the surface of the brackish waters at the bottom of my soul.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. John 3.
She's read my blog. She'll probably read this. She's smart enough that it is likely she'll realize I'm far too distant from reality to be helped. How often have I walked away from someone, assuming that she would walk away from me if she only knew me, and walking away before she rejected me would hurt less than the rejection itself? I don't know if I'll even be able to talk about steps 4 and 5 without getting up and just walking off.
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
Edgar Allen Poe