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It was the biggest Rattle Snake I had ever seen!

One year while we were pastoring in California, one of our church members presented us with the opportunity to use their vacation home in the Puget Sound area near Seattle for a week. We decided to turn it into a trip to remember by visiting other sites along the way like the Redwoods, Mount Shasta, California’s Gold Coast and doing some panning for gold. However, we didn’t expect that one of the memorable experiences of this trip would be a life threatening confrontation with a deadly creature.

When we went through Redding, California, we found a visitor center that told of where and how to pan for gold. We bought a plastic pan especially made for the task, garnered instruction from the locals selling the panning tools; and with directions in hand we headed for riches untold. We scaled the hill outside of Redding and aimed our car in the direction of the Pacific Ocean on our way to the most popular gold-panning river in the area.

All the way up the hill our youngest, who was nine at the time, kept asking how rich we were going to be after we found the gold. While our oldest, eleven years his brother’s senior, clarified to his younger sibling that whatever he found was going to be his and his alone. The naïve conversation took place even though the man at the Visitor Center had clarified that the rivers were all pretty much emptied of gold. He did say, however, that a few specks of gold dust might find their way into our pan. But it didn’t dampen their enthusiasm one bit. They were still planning on riches and fortune.

When we found the parking lot that was described to us, my sons could hardly wait to get going. They piled out of the car and started scampering down the trail to the river. I was close behind and my wife, Shirley trailed last.

The area terrain was covered with desert sage brush that filled the hilly countryside and lined the trail we were walking down. Our two sons were sixty feet in front of us, with my older son a few feet in front of his younger brother; and we were all walking briskly downhill toward the river that was a quarter mile away from the parking lot, without a care in the world.

All at once, about halfway to our destination, I heard a shriek from my oldest son for his brother to stop. I looked and my oldest son had come to a screeching halt, and had his arms spread out with one of them holding his brother back.

While still moving forward, much faster now, I called, “What is it?”

“Rattlesnake,” He cried with his head pointed in a downward direction at the trail in front of him. “And a big one too. He’s rattling dad. What should I do?”

I scurried faster as I said, “Don’t move.” By then I had arrived just in time to see the snake slither across the trail in front of my two sons, with its very distinct rattle shaking ominously behind it as it moved off into the brush.

It was the biggest rattle snake I had ever seen, and having been in California by that time for more than fifteen years, I had seen a lot. It wasn’t as long as it was thick. It seemed to be three inches in diameter as it snaked its way across the path. I gulped, thankfully, as it disappeared under a bush.

We waited until the creature was well away from the trail, and all moved ahead much more, slowly, cautiously and closely together, all the rest of the way to the river.

It reminded me of I Peter 5:8. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion (or rattling snake in our case), seeking whom he should devour.” NKJV

It isn’t uncommon for us to suddenly find ourselves in precarious, even dangerous situations in our lives, marriages, families and relationships. The enemy of our souls is always lurking nearby seeking to turn our life’s circumstances sour; a mistake into a disaster, a sharp remark into a family ruination, a flirt into a divorce, a cross remark into a relational breakup, a drink into a drunk, a party into an overdose.

We are all tempted to take down our guard as we negotiate the common directions of our lives. We will walk down our daily paths without a care and without awareness that an enemy would like to take us out. And it isn’t uncommon for a sudden danger to present itself to us.

Another scripture, Ephesians 5:15 says, “See that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” This scripture expands on the other by telling us to walk with a circular awareness of the dangers that lurk around us, suggesting that we keep our spiritual eyes and hearts watching in every direction for attacks that may not just strike us, but intend to take us down. Keep watch loved ones.

And, in case you were wondering, we didn’t get rich that day.

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