(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Fear of snakes
I've been afraid of snakes for as long as I can remember. I don't know where this fear came from but I know it's quite common. If we went to a zoo, I just wouldn't go into the reptile house.
This has bothered me for a long time. I'm a Christian, and I've read Psalm 34v4: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. and it seemed to me that I shouldn't be afraid of snakes (or anything else). But I was.
Then, some years ago, Martine and I were on holiday in Stratford, and we went to the butterfly house. I didn't know they had snakes as well as butterflies.
By God's grace, I managed to stay in the place where the snakes were. And then one of the people who worked there took a snake out of its cage and let a child - maybe 10 years old - stroke it.
Well - if a 10-year-old can do it...
I felt brave and even considered asking to stroke it as well - but I didn't :-(
I expect this experience will mean very little to anyone who isn't afraid of snakes (or spiders or mice...) but for me it was significant. I was very glad to have gone some of the way towards facing my fear but disappointed that I was still afraid to the point where I didn't touch the snake.
I continued to think about this. God can set us free from fear, but to be free from fear must include facing the thing that you're afraid of.
I didn't really ask anyone to pray for me, I just went over it in my mind and - from time to time - went back to God and asked Him to set me free from the fear - knowing that I would have to face it at some time.
Recently, Martine and I went to Singapore. This was amazing in itself, a great blessing. But Martine wanted to go to the zoo. That was OK; I didn't think too much about what creatures would be in the zoo. The tour we were on included breakfast, and we were told in advance that we would see some orang-utans. No-one mentioned that snakes would also be coming to breakfast.
When we arrived, a zoo worker was holding a small, harmless little red snake. I reached out and touched it. The experience was OK. But it wasn't great. Then another animal keeper came in carrying a python.
I was OK! I could sit there, maybe 15 feet away and I actually felt quite calm.
Then we were invited to have our photographs taken holding the python, and - yes - I went for it.
I wasn't being ever so brave - God just made it easy to do! I posed holding this great big python and - genuinely - felt OK.
Here's the proof: