"This I will declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my fortress, my God and I trust Him."
"It's 5 o'clock in the morning, Lord. I could use a little more sleep"..... That would have been me this morning as God brought to mind a matter He would like me to "work on". I sometimes wake to His voice around 4 am, but this morning it was 5:15. I heard the words clearly in my mind, made a commitment to follow through, and tried to go back to sleep. As I was drifting off, I saw myself totally wrapped up from head to toe by a big python. (I had been writing this weekend about the python stories I wanted to share from our two years in the Philippine Islands.) This python was constricting me tightly, slowly sucking the breath right out of me. I knew if I did nothing but lay still, it would kill me, but I also knew that if I moved to much it would constrict me even more and death would come quicker. I was able to get one arm free so I took the tail of the snake and began to slowly unwind it from my face and neck. It took effort, but I was able to do it. Still I knew I would need help to remove this death vice from my body, so I prayed for God's help. It was not a pretty dream, but I felt it was significant.
I told Joel about the dream this morning and he asked me what I thought was wrapping me up or keeping me constricted? Constricted. Confined. Wrapped up in. Yeah, there could be a thing or two that I could come up with! And yes, I would need God to help me break free from what is keeping me from God's full purpose for me life. Thank you Jesus.
Now, back to the snake/python stories I have been writing about. I remember one day on our way to the base we saw a woman walking fast along the road. As an American woman, it was not so safe to be out about on foot and alone, even during the daytime, so we stopped and asked if she wanted a ride to the base. When she got in we could tell she was really upset. When we asked her what was wrong she shared her story. She had been outside in her backyard hanging up a few clothes when she looked to her left and saw a huge python coming over the top of her cement wall very close to her. It frightened her so much, she dropped everything, ran into the house, and right out the front door heading to the base. I expect to see her hubby! Poor woman! She probably was new to the P.I. and had not acclimated to the "wildlife". One day we were driving on to the base and all traffic had come to a stand still. It seems a big ol' python was slowly going across the highway and everyone was at a stop waiting for it to pass. Just part of life in the jungle. I never experienced a close encounter with a python, nor any other kind of snake, even though we did check our yard daily before letting the kids go out and play.
But...... Early one morning I was out on the porch and driveway sweeping away the dirt and ants when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over and just a few feet away was a ginormous prehistoric looking animal staring at me. I don't know how it got in when we had a cement wall around the whole property and a metal driveway gate that was closed and locked. When I saw it I screamed loudly, dropped the broom and ran into the house. I went right into the bedroom where Joel was sleeping and shook him awake. I told him, "There is a huge p-p-p-prehistoric animal in the yard! Joel jumped up and went outside but it must have been scared away by my screams. Later we discovered it was a very large monitor lizard. Definitely, a prehistoric looking reptile! Definitely not something you want to meet face to face, but thankfully it was as scared as I was!
Living in a third world country was a life changing experience. At first we lived off base, under Marshall law with Marcos as leader, with bars on our windows and a heave wood door that slid sideways to close with a lock that bolted into the cement floor. We hired 24/7 guards to protect the homes in our area and lived without house OR cell phones. This was the 70's after all, and smart phones were nonexistent. We sent our two oldest, who were in preschool, off to school in a bus with meshed wire and bars on the windows for their protection. We were always watchful with the kids. We had a maid named Ampharo who lived with us ( a unofficial government policy) and we could rely on her to educate us as we learned to navigate in a third world country. (She became a dear friend and we kept in touch with her and her family for years after we left the country.) It could have easily been a place to let fear take hold. We prayed a lot.
When we were able to move into base housing, there were towers everywhere with guards....the base of 40,000 was surrounded by a fence, and we did not have bars on our windows nor did we worry about the kids going to school. We relaxed our vigil somewhat because we knew we were protected by the military and in a safer environment.
Looking back at those years and our many experiences ~ good, bad, and ugly~ we know God walked with us. He was as vigilant as the guards that lined the perimeter of the base. He was watching over our family and keeping us safe and alert during risky circumstances. Wildlife was to be respected as we took over their environment, and the worst we ever battled with were the biting fire ants, rice beetles, and flying roaches. He gave us a deep love and respect for the local people we grew to know and care about. Those two years shaped all of our lives. We still recall them often and fondly.
God is our protector whether we live in middle America or in a third world country. When He is fighting for us we can remain calm. We know we are safe. Whether from a python, the two legged kind of predators, Satan and His buddies, or our own fears. We can stand on His promise to be our refuge and our place of safety.