Snakes, Pumpkins, Porches, and Fig Trees

by Patti Richter

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 NIV

Porches want pumpkins in autumn, no matter the temperatures. In the South, without much color in the trees in early fall, we depend on pumpkins and chrysanthemums to announce the season.

I’m a fair-weather gardener, so it takes a fine October day to bring out the ounce of Martha Stewart in me. It was just that kind of balmy weather when I grabbed my old metal bucket and filled it with essentials: garden shears, watering pitcher, and fertilizer. But a strange notion stopped me short of the front door:  There’s a snake on the porch.

My well-worn garden clogs stood waiting for my feet to move.

I don’t like snakes, even the harmless, beneficial ones. But I hadn’t seen one for a long time, and I’d never seen one on my front porch, so why would I think there was a snake there now?

I pushed aside the gauzy window curtain next to the front door. All clear. Even so, I felt uneasy. I parked the bucket right there and resumed household chores instead.

Later, I peeked out the curtain again—nothing but pumpkins. As I reached for my bucket, the compelling thought returned: There’s a snake on the porch.

Perplexed, I went to sit down on the left end of the den sofa—my regular place of prayer. “Lord, this is so strange,” I said. “Are you warning me about a snake?”

An unexpected “answer” came as I suddenly recalled my last snake sighting—many months before. I’d been standing on the back patio with our terrier, Rufus, when he practically flew down the steps and into some Nandina bushes. Then, a long snake darted out of the bushes and into the yard, with Rufus searching frantically along its path. As I watched—knees knocking—I realized that old “snake in the grass” saying was true. The serpent remained perfectly still and hidden before suddenly racing toward the fence and slithering beneath it to the neighbor’s yard.

For days after that encounter, I’d been afraid to cross the yard to tend my flower garden. Finally, I sat on a patio step and prayed: “Lord, I want to work in my garden. Could you please keep me from coming upon a snake?”

Now, sitting on the sofa, I realized I’d forgotten all about that snake prayer. I lingered there a while, amazed at a God who not only hears us but answers our smallest prayers—even the ones we forget about!

The apostle John shared the story of Nathanael, a would-be disciple of Jesus, who wondered how Jesus knew all about him. “’How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’” (John 1:48, 49 NIV).

Like Nathanael, we may underestimate the Lord’s knowledge of our every move and our every word. We may be surprised or shocked to realize he answers our prayers—especially those little ones that seem too small for him to care about.

With such a loving God, why should we fear snakes or anything else?   

On that October day, I finally went to retrieve my bucket, peered through the curtain again, and opened the front door cautiously—only a few inches. But I was just in time to see a rather cute little snake glide out from behind a pumpkin and harmlessly away.

This article brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at with more than four hundred published articles.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: With what fears do you struggle?


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