Death by snake – reflections on faithfulness

Just over a month ago…I had what I call a “God moment”.  My life was in danger.  God showed up.  He saved me.  AND I live to share my story.  He is faithful.  Here’s what happened:

I had never hiked in a rain forest before.  We were hiking through tree tops connected by hanging bridges, with beautiful summits high above the clouds of trees.  The rain forest spilled forth exotic life and color unlike anything we had ever seen.  We were blown away. Vistas revealed tropical birds and misty low covering clouds.  At times, the protesting cries of monkeys carried through the damp air.

We had started our hike about an hour before. It was early afternoon.  We had spent our morning zip-lining through this remarkable place and now were going to enjoy it via land.  I had already pushed my body to the limits that day and had had more than my fair share of anxiety.  To put your life in the hands of a cable, a harness, and a carabiner…lying supine with legs crossed…as you fly through the air at great speeds, trust is the word that comes to mind.  Blind faith.  It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.  To be 600 feet in the air traveling over thousands of feet of cable across mountain valleys and sky scapes of lakes, volcanoes and clouds – it pushed me way beyond my comfort zone.

So, we were now hiking…letting our pulses descend to their normal range as we began what we thought would be a routine jungle walk.  As we coursed through the trails, the rain began to pour from the heavens.  A hard, drenching rain.  We were prepared.  We had borrowed intense, trench-coat like waterproof jackets from the zip-lining station.  A little rain wasn’t going to stop us.  Not today.  In a way it made it more magical.  A romantic rendezvous in a Costa Rican tropical rain forest with my handsome hubby.  Aren’t these the things adventures are made of?

A stream soon ran along side us and we found ourselves walking down into the valley floor.  Our eyes were busy watching the steep cliff to our right, I hardly had a chance to notice the white mouth open 3 inches from my left foot.  Out of the corner of my eye, my peripheral vision had spotted something deadly and my primal “fight or flight” response kicked in.  SNAKE my mind’s voice screamed.  My left leg instinctively came straight off the ground as I lunged forward on my right.  As I hurdled beyond the snake, I saw it strike at me.  Seconds later, with both feet planted firmly on the ground again, I heard my husband ask what had happened.  He said the snake had only caught his attention as he saw it retract from striking at me. He was behind me 10 or so feet.  I stood shaking as I pointed out the snake, curled upon itself in a strike pose.  Waiting, ready to attack anything that might threaten it’s space.  I assured my husband that I hadn’t been bitten and he snapped a few pictures. Then, he carefully stepped off the trail and into the bush to go around the snake.  Not to be taken lightly, the one thing they do warn you about in Costa Rica is to NEVER go off trail . Deadly reptiles abound and could mean certain death.  But we had met our enemy dead on.  I had nearly stepped on him.

With hearts pounding and eyes wide open, we hurriedly finished the rest of our hike and soon caught up with a guide.  We told her what had happened and showed her the picture.  Her face fell as she studied our digital screen.  “That is one of the most deadly snakes in Costa Rica.”  Quickly, she pulled in another colleague of hers for a closer look and his opinion.  “A Bushmaster snake” he offered.  My husband was familiar with this sort of snake, having grown up reading about it.  It is one of the top 5 most deadly snakes in the world.  Certain death is likely unless you have anti-venom access in a reasonable time frame.  But we had been deep into our hike.  There was no way we would have made it to the nearest hospital, over an hour from the park.

Questions followed.

“How did you get away?” he asked.

“I jumped.  Somehow I saw it in a nick of time.”

“NO. There is no way you could have jumped away from this snake. They strike at 4 meters per second.  You are so lucky to be alive.  You would have died out there had he got you.”

His words slowly began to sink in as he continued, “You are also very lucky to have seen it.  It’s a nocturnal snake and rarely seen during daylight hours.  Though, I must say, you are fortunate it wasn’t an adult snake.  This is a juvenile snake, equally venomous, but less human aggressive.  The adults will chase you, these will just stay put…waiting to attack.”

Wow, his words were like the electric beam of a stun gun.  My body flooded with emotion and anxiety.  If there was any chance I was pregnant this month, I knew that the stress that raged through my body had ended that hope.  Post traumatic stress set in and we were left to reflect on the death I had almost succumbed to.  The hand of God had protected me.  How that snake missed I do not know except to give God the glory.  In those first few hours following our encounter, despite tattered emotions, I felt a renewed sense of purpose.  I am meant to be alive still.  I haven’t yet fulfilled God’s plan for my life.  It was an incredible moment to live in.

It took us about a day to get back to our senses.  A day to process what we had been through and the grace that had carried us along.  In a way, I treasure this experience in my heart.  Though I would never want to relive it, it gives me hope in my pilgrimage through infertility.  Maybe I’m still here because we have children to raise with great hope yet to be instilled and passed along to another generation.  Time will reveal all things.

For now, O Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness.