Yesterday my older children were playing outside our house and my baby was sitting happily on the grass in the perfect sunshine. We went inside for a few hours and came back out to get in the car. Our kids were loaded up, but before my husband and I got in we noticed a black pile in the middle of the grass— a huge snake. It was kind of cool until I got a closer look and noticed that the snake was coiled around something. I know it’s unfairly discriminatory, but I kind of hoped it was coiled around a rat. Unfortunately, I saw a tiny bushy tail. A baby bunny. I watched as the snake opened it’s vicious mouth to clutch around that sweet ball of fur. And I was angry with that snake.
What happened next was a long saga of my husband trying to humanely move the snake away from the house, which resulted in the snake getting very angry with my husband and my husband having to eventually kill it. The whole thing left us all feeling rather somber and disturbed. When we finally got on our way in the car, shortly after pulling out onto the road, another bunny ran across in front of our car and we had to swerve so as not to hit it.
My five-year-old was quite attentive to this whole scene and explaining it was difficult. We didn’t want to give him the idea that snakes are “bad” or that animals have any morality at all. But then again, I saw the look on that snake’s face. The opening scene of The Lion King makes you think that the Circle of Life is a beautiful thing— and I guess it sort of is— the balance of predator and prey and famine and surplus and how the Earth seems to keep going and producing despite all the pain and sorrow. But Disney doesn’t show us when Simba eats another animal’s babies. Because Simba certainly did. How do I tell that to a five-year-old?
For a lot of people, “the problem of pain” is a reason not to believe in God. And I understand this. But I think it’s just as easily a reason to believe in God. Perhaps this world is too cruel for a loving God to have created it. Or perhaps it’s too cruel to not believe that a loving God has saved it. Too cruel to not believe that a better end awaits us.
Whether you believe in God or not, you have to humble yourself if you want to be at peace while on this Earth. You either humble yourself before the will of the universe or you humble yourself before the will of God. One doesn’t care much for you, and while under its watch, you only matter in so much as you benefit the rest of the world. One cares for you infinitely, and cares for you as if you were the whole world. We have a choice to whom we humble ourselves.
Some people find it provides more contentment to humble themselves before the universe. To accept, rather, embrace the circle of life. I can understand why. It allows for a different kind of freedom to live as we desire and to live as if our days are truly limited. In some ways, it can even spur us on to a renewed sense of purpose, justice, and heroic humanism if we do not believe that everything is a “part of the plan” or that God will “fix” things in the end.
But I can’t accept it. I still wonder if the rabbit that ran across the road last night was the bunny’s mother searching frantically for her precious baby. No, universe, I can’t accept that. Or, at least, I can’t accept that such an atrocity has no redemptive end— a place where the wolf dwells with the lamb and the baby can play with the snake.*
*Isaiah 11: 6, 8
Brenda Steele says
Elizabeth, you have a heart of faith, and you and your husband are leading your boys towards the same. God bless!
Elizabeth Hanna Pham says
thank you for your sweet encouragement!
Nancy Cotney says
Beautiful article Elizabeth! I encountered a baby copperhead on my sidewalk last wk. It truly frightened me because I was on top of him before I knew of the real danger I was in. You see, the baby snake can deliver as much poison as an adult. There was no warning the snake could give, as with a rattlesnake. I did emerge from the experience with wonder and awe of all of God’s creatures, and each one does have a purpose in this world. I am also very thankful that I was spared a truly painful bite. From now on, I will be very careful about where I am walking! ❤️
Elizabeth Hanna Pham says
what a scary experience! But you are right- it inspires wonder and awe!