My cousin Joanne found a snake in her house a few days ago. I was talking to her mother - Aunt Alice - about it. I would move out of my house, I said.
Aunt Alice said that a snake slithered up the plumbing when she was in college. The whole dorm was shut down when it bit a girl while she was on the toilet.
My phobia was going full-tilt.
It reminded me of the day we all visited Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, South Dakota. Aunt Alice was there. And all of my cousins.
The snake house at Reptile Gardens was creepy. I didn't want to walk through it. The paved pathway was too narrow. Snakes hung from branches and occasionally crossed from one side of the walkway to the other.
I hate snakes.
You were brave if you went through the snake house. My cousin Nadine was the oldest. She said, "No, thank you!" and refused to step one foot inside the place. The rest of us said okay and started down the path.
Sometimes, this life is a whole lot like the snake house at Reptile Gardens. There is a path. It is the only safe way to make it through to the other side. The world, with all of its venom, is so close. It is on every side, on low-lying branches, and sometimes, we even have to step over the slithering things because they even cross our paths.
All it takes is one look over our shoulders, and we realize that there are snakes just a few steps behind us. They scoot across the path just seconds after we pass by.
It takes a lot of courage to keep going. The pathway twists and turns, and we know the exit sign is up there somewhere. We'd love to close our eyes tightly and ignore the danger. But it's better to keep our wits about us. It would be too easy to wander off the path. Lord, have mercy! Look at all of those snakes!
I can still creep myself out when I think about the snake house. And sometimes, I can have almost the same kind of panic rising up inside of me when I think about the pitfalls in life's journey.
It is a long walk through some pretty tough places. And one must keep moving in the right direction.
It can be a valley of tears.
The day we walked through the snake house, I wished I had an impenetrable suit like some astronaut in space. I wanted one of those space helmets so that I could look at the scary creatures and know that they couldn't get me.
If something crossed my path, I would just squash it--if I had a super-amazing snake-proof suit.
Well, we do have something like that.
We are wrapped up in the protection of Mother Church. We have devotions and prayers and guardian angels. We have the Sacraments and Adoration and Saints above praying.
We have Our Lady's Mantle. And Sacred Scripture.
Sure, there are dangers all around us, but the greatest danger is within. Nothing can harm us - unless we close our eyes to the danger. We can get through this safely - if we remain vigilant.
My cousins and I huddled closely to one another as we walked through the snake house. I have a few friends in the spiritual journey, too. I walk beside them as closely as I can. And we encourage each other to keep our wits about us.
See. Up ahead. That's the exit.
This won't last forever.