My family spends our Thanksgiving holiday deep in the woods of south Georgia. We are far from cell service. There are no computers and only one TV in the main family room. Before every meal we form a circle, hold hands, and return thanks. We eat together around a large table, with all present from age 11 months to 88 years. Far away from the real world, we are wrapped in a cocoon of love, safety, and peace.
Early risers, like really early risers, grab piping hot coffee, bundle up in wool & camo, before heading out to the solitude of a deer stand. After lunch, we load up wooden mule drawn wagons with six bird dogs, one retriever, and the ones who don’t want to ride horse back. The rest of us saddle up. The dogs are turned loose in pairs, scurrying through the acreage hunting a covey of quail. The lead rider, following the dogs leads, watches for their point. Holding up his hat, he indicates it’s time for the hunters to dis-mount, pull their guns from the saddle, and prepare to shoot. The whole thing is quiet beautiful.
On the second day of our hunt, we’d been riding for about an hour, when my great-uncle called the wagon to a halt. He stood in his saddle and hollered, “I need a shooter. We’ve got a snake.” Not only could this be dangerous for the dogs, and hunters on foot, but a snake could also send all of the horses into an instinctual frenzy. My brother and an older family friend, hoped down into the dry dirt, guns loaded, and headed toward my uncle, who had the snake at his feet. Just as my brother was about to pull the trigger, the older man said, “Stop! That’s a King Snake. Don’t kill it.” Everyone exhaled. The horses began nibbling the brush. A sense of relief floated through the breeze. The King Snake kills and eats dangerous poisonous snakes. He is, in essence, keeper of the slithering reptile kingdom.
As we rode off, I realized how much my life has been like that moment on our hunt. I am conditioned to make judgements about my circumstances, when all along, God is saying, “trust me. I know what is best. I have designed every breath of your life for you good. ” “The snake you think will hurt you is actually sitting to protect you. The thing you think is bad, I predetermined for good. The heartache, the loneliness, that you think are going to wipe you out & take you down, are not as you perceive them. ”
So, I’m thinking this Christmas we let go of what we think it SHOULD look like and open our eyes to the idea that we simply don’t know. Shakespeare said, nothing is either good or bad, thinking makes it so. I am forced to ask myself how many times did I think it should have gone one way, assuming it was bad when it didn’t, only to find I’d been faced with a metaphoric ‘king snake’.
So, Merry Christmas. May we let our days be merry and bright, trusting God’s majestic merciful plan. Understanding that we don’t understand, suspending judgement, and humbling praying, “Thy will be done”.
—- Tyler Hayes
—- sending you love wherever you are in the world