Pages

Testify


Most folks in the small mountain community in Appalachia subscribed to the practice of taking up serpents, or snake handling as it was known to the outside world, as evidence of salvation. They based their belief on verses found in the book of Mark in the Bible...

"And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."  (Mark 16:17-18)

It was a tradition that had been handed down from Zach's grandfather to his father, and now it was his turn to testify.  Zach's faith was strong, but fear was proving even stronger, and he wasn't sure he could go through with it.  It hadn't been that long ago that a well-known pastor from a West Virginia parish had been bitten by a snake he was handling at an outdoor revival service and had died just a few hours later.  If a man like that could be bitten, how was Zach to be certain that he fell under God's protection from the serpent's bite?

On Saturday evening, folks began gathering at the old stone barn used by the community for praise and worship.  There was no cross or outward sign where the church met, the taking up of serpents being squarely against the law in their state.  By the time the service started,  the barn was filled to capacity with God-fearing people who sang and prayed, and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit overtook them.

Things reached a point of fervor as Zach stepped forward after a quick glance at the wife he had married just a few months ago, and gently laying his hand on the rounded bump of her belly where she carried their unborn child.  His last thought as he left her side was that he hoped their baby was a girl and didn't have to grow up to face this experience to prove himself a man of God.

Moving to the altar almost on auto pilot, sweat beads forming on his forehead, Zach repeated the verses that were the foundation of his faith silently to himself, and then shouted them aloud for all the congregation to hear as he took up the serpent from the Elder and lifted it high into the air.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Megg at  Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "subscribe".

14 comments:

  1. Perhaps faith should never feel like a burden or a test..not for an outside display at least..good to have scribbles back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree with you Jae. What may have begun with good intention so often becomes something for others to endure rather than embrace. Perhaps the true meaning of faith gets lost somewhere in that. Yes, I'm delighted that we have our place to scribble again! :-)

      Delete
  2. I loved the story, what a great way to over come fear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Austine! It certainly would be... IF you live to tell the tale! :-)

      Delete
  3. Not just interesting, very well written...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Berowne, I was attempting to convey the intensity of this event, and hopefully I succeeded.

      Delete
  4. You certaintly did convey the intensity of the event and of you story the level built up and up. I was hoping he would not hold it nor even touch it.

    I had a similar trial with riding my motorcycle. I was getting reckless so I parked it for good when our daughter was born.

    Perhaps that was cowardly. I do know that God watched over me with his angels helping while I rode.
    ..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He didn't want to handle that snake, Jim, he didn't believe it was God requiring it, but he also knew that if he didn't he and his family would have to live with a lifetime of shame in the community, so he felt that he really had no choice.

      I understand completely about the motorcycle riding, when we become parents we realize that there are little lives depending on us and it is a time to give up risky behaviors, I think that's called maturing. Angels have saved me from myself a time or two as well, I'm certain mine were all white-haired in very short order... and weary! :-)

      Delete
  5. Man's obtuse conception of God in order to join an exclusive club. The love of God and one another can be better proved than by this. A poignant and telling story showing the stupidity of mankind and their lack of understanding of God. There is a world of difference between "shall" and "must".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed Old Egg! If we want to prove our devotion, we can do that by the example of the way we live and conduct ourselves, a far better measure of character than a rash act that can so easily become a final act! The God I believe in would never require this kind of sacrifice. I'm not saying that God isn't powerful enough to prevent snakes from biting, I'm just saying that it's not our job to put him to the test!

      Delete
  6. Fabulous storytelling, Josie! You held me in the grip of Zach's faith sure as held to his faith when facing his fear. What I gain from the telling of this story is that if we have faith in our belief of our self we can overcome all we may face and we do it with strong shoulders that bear the weight of grace.

    I grew up in non-denominational type churches which upheld similar practices of faith. Back then they were known as "holy rollers" I think mostly because as I recall from my childhood they 'rolled around on the floor covered in blankets' or such but I no longer know the reason why.

    FYI...I snagged your blog button!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think your understanding of the situation is equally on target, Ruth. It takes a tremendous sense of courage and faith in ourselves to face whatever life requires of us, from handling snakes to dealing with them day in and day out! :-)

      Delete
  7. Josie, I have a friend from Kentucky ("CAIN-Tucky") who grew up in the "hollers." She, like Lex and me, is a member of the UCC, a "lefty" church. She felt that, having witness all sorts of tests to be considered "true to the faith," she wanted to pursue a faith community which required "none of the above," simply the love of God and following Jesus' message of love without condition or boundaries.

    This is one of the best writings I've found about that snakes/tongues/rollers experience. The last sentences tore at me - wishing their child to be a girl so as to be spared this "test of manhood." The patriarchal churches are suffering because women are finding their voices. Thanks so much, Amy http://sharplittlepencil.com/2013/01/27/extra-extra-editorial-comment-by-moi/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your words, and the time you took to respond to my story more than I can say Amy. I don't always know where these stories come from in me, they just fall into order on the screen. This one moved me too, as I wrote it I felt the the young man's emotions and struggles with this concept of faith so strongly. Maybe that's what I identified with as well.

      Delete

Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)