Sometimes you should simply begin at the beginning when you tell a story.
Two days ago I was hiking with my best dog friend and my best human friend. I’m up ahead, my best human friend is in the rear and my best dog friend is in the middle. And as we were well on the way up the first of several blind canyons we go up and down on this ten mile hike, my best human friend believes she sees something wrong with my best dog friend.
I looked and didn’t see anything that looked wrong. And a few minutes later, after we’d got to the top of the box canyon and were on our way back down, the dog RACES past us showering the two slow-moving humans with sand. She looked find.
The rest of the hike the dog seemed fine. But after getting home, I thought I might have seen a bit of a limp.
The next day there was no question: she was periodically limping fairly badly.
Well, I ALWAYS take the dog for the hike. And just in case you are wondering what “butthurt” looks like, it looks like my dog if she doesn’t go with her master on that hike. One time I took my nephew shooting, and geared up pretty much the same I would as if I were hiking, and I heard her howling piteously. If it were left up to her, she’d do her “Black Knight” impression and tell me, “Tis just a flesh wound!” And it wasn’t a terrible limp. But I made the call to leave her at home and give her leg a better chance to heal up.
I actually took her treats into the back room of the house, gave her one, ran out and took out my gear, then gave her more and ran out of the house so either a) she wouldn’t know I was leaving her to go hiking or b) so I wouldn’t have to see the look on her face as I betrayed her like a Judas-class traitor. You decide which.
Anyway, as I’m hiking I briefly talk to my best human friend on the phone. I’ll call her “Gabriela,” since I’ve always liked that name and also since it actually happens to BE my friend’s name. And I tell my friend Gabriela the shocking news that I didn’t take my dog.
Gabriela reminds me that she DID see something the night before. And I said, “Maybe you did, but remember how she seemed fine afterward and for the rest of the walk?”
And Gabriela said something that turned out to be very fascinating: she said she might have been seeing it prophetically, pointing out that she’d never asked me if the dog was all right before on any of the other hikes we’d taken.
Do you believe that someone who is sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit can see something that the Spirit is about to do? Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. But let me continue with the story.
I’m walking up the same first blind canyon where Gabriela had believed she’d seen something wrong with my dog, and a thought suddenly occurs to me: “If you’re going to allow any rattlesnakes, Lord, let them come tonight when I don’t have my dog with me.”
You need to understand: I’m an old former soldier and I have literally walked through tens of thousands of miles of bushes in my life. On my own, I’m not terrified of rattlesnakes. They are deadly and you better be careful if you’re going to mess with one; but I’m pretty confident in my ability to spot them because I generally keep to the trails and I am constantly watching for them. What freaks me out – as I’ve pointed out in the past – is my fear for my dog. She’s my baby. If every parent loved their child at least as much as I love my dog, the world would be a much sweeter place.
On my own, I tend toward being pretty brave; but I’ve had encounters with rattlesnakes involving my dog that had me literally sick and shaking with fear. The parent who just saw his or her little kid run out into the street right in front of a car understands that terror. And what is your instinct as a parent? You jump right in front of that car and you block your child with your very own body and you don’t even think twice about it, either.
So I’m saying to the LORD, “If you have any rattlesnakes to put in my path, put them here now.”
Immediately after saying that, I understand that if I’m going to ask the LORD to allow a deadly serpent in my path, I’d BETTER be prayed up. Rattlesnakes are deadly poisonous, and when they move, they move so fast and so quick they stun you. They go from zero mph to full astonishing speed INSTANTLY. if you’re close enough to hurt them, believe me, they are close enough to hurt you. You try to hit them and you miss, and they suddenly slither your way, you aren’t going to be able to get out of the way. And so I prayed and confessed all my sins. And not just my sins, but my transgressions, my iniquities, my rebellions against God and His lordship over my life. I asked my God for forgiveness through the perfect life lived in my place and the ultimate sacrificial death given in my place by my Lord Jesus. And I prayed that the LORD would protect me, and deliver me, and keep me safe from the world and from the flesh and from the devil. I prayed that the LORD would shut up the mouth of the serpent so that it could not bite or strike, and that the LORD would deliver it into my hand so that I could kill it.
And no sooner – and I mean not one SECOND AFTER – I prayed that prayer, what did I see?
Two years ago I encountered a dozen rattlesnakes in one year. Last year it was like eight. But I’ve only seen one this year and it was back in February.
But yeah. AS IF ON CUE, a rattlesnake was just all of a sudden there.
I took the picture AFTER I killed it. And I staged the picture from behind to conceal the smashed-head part. I’m afraid I’m not of this generation where the first thing you think of is taking a selfie with something that you ought to either be killing or fleeing. Fight or flight first, photo afterward.
And no, that rattlesnake will never threaten my dog again. And it’s kids won’t have a chance to, either. It won’t bite any other hiker or harm any child.
I know there are some environmentalists out there who are recoiling in horror that whenever I see a rattlesnake, I kill it dead, DEAD, DEAD. Whereas I not only don’t kill constrictor snakes; I step over ant mounds and stink bugs. It’s actually kind of weird who the radical environmentalist thinks, because on the one hand they believe that humans are merely part of nature, as part of the same evolutionary process that spawned everything else; but at the same time we humans are somehow apart from nature in spite of the fact that, no, we actually are NOT apart from nature on their own view. If we are merely part of evolution, then how is everything we do not merely part of “nature” too? This is merely one of the ways those who don’t believe in God literally self-refute their own foundations! Whereas I believe that God truly made us different from every other creature and that ultimately we are HIS image-bearers created in HIS spiritual and moral likeness. And the God who created us in His image gave us dominion over the earth.
I don’t kill rattlesnakes because I enjoy it. I know I’m doing so at risk to myself. One mistake on my part, one aggressive move on their part, and I’m out in the middle of nowhere very likely by myself out of cell range screaming in pain and in a life-threatening situation. But they are incredibly dangerous predators. They are literally living land mines. And I’ll simply put it this way: you threaten my little girl – as rattlers have in the past – and I will END you.
Thank GOD my dog wasn’t there to be the first one to encounter that venomous serpent on the trail – and hampered with a hurting leg.
I truly believe if she hadn’t had that sore leg – that my dear friend Gabriela anticipated prophetically – and had I not made that gut-informed decision not to take her when I ALWAYS take her on my hikes, that rattlesnake would have bit my beautiful, beloved dog.
It was for Gabriela to prophetically see so she could be a witness to the power of God; it was for me directly experience so I could testify to the power of God who knows the end from the beginning and who delivers His people. And their little dogs, too!
So in the aftermath, I was praising God, thanking my LORD, adoring Jesus my Savior, wondering in awe of my infinite Creator God who is omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent and who surrounds me and goes before me and places His holy angels all around me and before me.
No it was NOT a simple coincidence that I asked the LORD that something would happen that hadn’t happened since February 17 and it happened AS I PRAYED FOR IT. Judy as it was no coincidence that my friend Gabriela noticed something wrong with my dog when to physical eyes she seemed fine at the time.
Because there is a God who speaks to His people, and who LISTENS to His people when they seek His face and call out to Him.
Some verses of Scripture I’ve memorized come to mind here:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. — Romans 8:28
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11
I love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. — Psalm 18:1-3
I prayed to the LORD, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; He saved me from all my troubles. For the Angel of the LORD is a guard; He surrounds and defends all who fear Him. Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! — Psalm 34:4-8
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. — Psalm 23
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from I flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see, and not another. — Job 19:25-27
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. — Romans 8:37-39
I don’t know what will happen in your future. I don’t even know what will happen in my OWN future. Sometimes God allows seemingly bad things to happen – such as my dog coming up with a bum leg – but He has a good purpose in allowing that thing to happen. Sometimes we can see what that good thing is in hindsight, sometimes we can’t see or the good thing unfolds on behalf of someone else. I also know that there is something called “the fear of the LORD,” which “is the beginning of wisdom.” That’s Proverbs 9:10. I’ve been forced to ponder that verse as I do my daily ten milers, because I hike in areas where rattlesnakes are hardly the only threat; there are plenty of human rattlesnakes, too, as well as coyotes, cougars, bobcats, scorpions, pests and pestilence where we even have to live in fear of mosquitos, and many other things. I go out into that desert and I pray every single night. Because I know that I am in the LORD’s hand, and I can NOT deliver myself from every danger that is out there and I can’t deliver my dog from every danger that is out there.
There are things that I would do, sins that I would commit, thoughts that I would have, that I don’t allow myself to do or commit or have; because I have the fear of the LORD and I don’t want to go out there having rebelled against my God who holds me in His hand. That is the fear of the LORD. But it is only the BEGINNING of wisdom; not the end. It is only in that place where you truly and fully realize that you are in the hands of God who holds your life and your future in His hands that you truly even CAN begin to experience genuine wisdom.
That’s one of the things that keeps me determined to go on those nightly hikes; it’s not merely physical exercise; it’s God as He “leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
God heard me last night. And God heard me last night because God hears me EVERY night; there is never a moment when He does not see me and hear me. And care about me.
Thank you for ALWAYS having me as the object of Your attention. And thank you for ensuring that You have MY attention!!!