The Snake Bite

“I am one month postpartum. My husband and I are so tired, we just pass each other with silent stares of exhaustion. Is this how marriages die?”

 “My 5-year-old little boy got sick in the middle of the night. We lost him within 24 hours. We are trying to rebuild, but I can’t make it through the day without seeing his face in my mind.”

 “Since the mass murder in Buffalo, I can’t go into a grocery store without fearing another racial crime just because of my skin color.”

These were just some of the statements I heard from my clients this week. I wanted to crawl into my pajamas at the end of a day full of clients, but we had a friend’s launch party to attend. Our family of five was drenched in the pouring rain as we got into the car. The drive was filled with each child offering some information about elementary school news. It was my daughter’s question that silenced us. “What do you do if someone is mean to you at school, like they tell you that you are ugly and they don’t want to play with you?” Because I was all tapped out, my husband took the lead on this first grade inquiry, and we began the conversation of what it means to love our enemies.

Even though I was cranky and tired, the conversation was captivating. We spent a significant time explaining what it means to pray for those who persecute you. Persecute is not an easily translatable word, but the importance of loving someone who hurts you was conveyed. My husband’s words were brilliant as we parked the car: “Loving someone doesn’t mean you let them continue to hurt you, it means your heart has power over their hatred.”

We made it to the launch party, and I skirted away from the crowd and allowed myself to stare at art on the walls. The conversation from the car was swirling in my head when I stopped in front of a concrete sculpture of a woman’s foot, a brass snake wrapped around her ankle with its fangs open and ready to strike. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the art piece. Immediately, I was aware of why it is so hard to love your enemies.

Enemies hurt us.

Snake bites wound us.

It is hard to rise up against something that hurts us. Whether it is a racist massacre, the traumatic loss of a child, the death of a loveless marriage, or the exhaustion of a broken heart, the rebel heart gets weary when struck. The passion we felt when life was safe enough to rebel is now gone. Now that we know the sting of having something taken away, we think first before risking again.

I felt the tug of my children on my still damp, full-length rain jacket, and I turned to see my husband’s face signaling it was time to go home. I took a picture on my phone of the art piece, the woman’s leg about to be bitten by this fanged snake. It wouldn’t be for another few hours, once the kids were fed, readied for bed, and the last one fell asleep, that I looked up the commentaries about Mary and the serpent verse in the Bible. I know the verse well, and I read it aloud:

I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. She will strike your head, and you will strike her heel. Genesis 3:15

This verse has always been interesting to me because it is the great victory verse for the two main female characters in the Bible—Eve and Mary. There is a double prophetic context for both women and Jesus. For the women, it is that Eve’s rebellion would be paid in full through Mary’s offspring. In short, the serpent is birthed when Eve eats of the forbidden fruit, and it is not rectified until Mary bruises the serpent’s head through the virgin birth of Christ. For humankind, it would be Jesus’ death and resurrection that would bruise the serpent’s head and free us from death’s sting.

I will not bore you with the theological debates that I geek out on, but I will bring you back to the striking image of the artist’s sculpture. It seems that good and evil on this earth result in our vulnerability to evil striking our ankles. For example, the human heart is susceptible to pain, anxiety, loss, and heartache because we live in a world that holds good and evil. When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” he knew the pain of the snake bite.

May we have wisdom as we delineate what it means to be struck by our enemy and not let their hatred have power over us.

Christy Bauman, Ph.D., MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voices. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, Documentary: A Brave Lament, and The Sexually Healthy Woman. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy is co-director of the Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew. They live in Brevard, North Carolina with their three kids: Wilder, Selah, and River.