I can vividly remember it as the worst night of my life and the night that I accepted my brokenness and cried out to God. As I finally surrendered, and realized I couldn't do it on my own, a silhouette of the following vision began to appear in my mind, first faint with few details, but over the following couple of months, became very detailed and clear. This vision helped guide me out of the fog and into God's light. It's effect was so vivid and profound, that it stays with me today as I face new challenges and obstacles on my life's journey.
To set the stage, anxiety (the birds) crept into my life in my late teens and early 20's and began to grow into a constant state of anxiety and almost daily panic attacks by the time I started pharmacy school. Ironically, I found relief in a pill and thought I had my problem solved. In reality, the pills (the snake) masked the problem and allowed it to grow and fester beneath the surface. Just a few years later, I found myself with two giant problems to contend with and nowhere to turn.
I was walking down an old dirt road with the sun shining warm on my shoulders and without a care in the world. Suddenly, without warning, a large, loud, obnoxious ugly black bird flew into my side screaming in my ear and sinking its teeth in my side. I bent down in pain and looked up astonished as it all happened so fast. As I was looking around from side to side, another bird flew into my back and bit me in the back. I quickly flipped around and another one flew in. Pretty soon, I was knelt down in the fetal position trying to cover my entire body praying that the birds didn't find an opening and that the pain would go away.
Next, I heard a slithering sound coming from my right. I glanced over to find a giant, colorful snake looking right at me. At first I was startled by him as well, but then he began to talk in a calm, comforting voice, and slither up over my foot. As the snake began to wrap it's warm, strong, comforting body around mine, the menacing birds, began to swoop in and then swoop back away trying to stay away from the snake. The snake continued to wrap it's body around me tight, but comforting. As it's body contracted, it made me feel strong as I could now stand up again. My body was still limp, but it's coils provided me support and gave me comfort. I looked around and saw birds all around us, but they stayed a few feet away. The snake would not allow them to swoop in and bite me. As the snake finally got its entire body wrapped around me, not leaving even an inch of my skin exposed to the outside world, its head slowly turned to mine and looked me straight in the eyes. It gave me a nice, soft smile. It then began to get tighter and tighter around my body as its face began to turn stern. My relaxed body, almost limp from being fully protected by the snake started to squirm as the tight squeeze became uncomfortable. The more I squirmed the tighter it squeezed. By this time its face was outright ugly and grotesque-looking and it squeezed tighter and tighter to the point that I could hardly breath. I looked to the right and left and found no help insight as now the black birds came flying back into me with a vengeance biting 10 times harder than before. Then, the snake opened its mouth wide and began to move into my neck to bury its teeth in my carotid artery going for the kill.
With desperation and knowing that death was near, I closed my eyes and pointed my head off to the right trying to daydream of better days. Suddenly, the clouds split open and a huge plank came crashing down landing next to me. As the dust settled and I looked up the plank, I saw a beautiful glowing light pouring down the plank toward me. On the side closest to me, the plank came down to the ground, but the other side of the plank was held firmly in the sky with two gigantic hands. As I looked closer, I saw that the plank actually was two perpendicular planks shaped like a cross. Each side of the cross sat firmly in a large red crater in the middle of each hand with red blood dripping down to the ground. Those hands were the hands of Jesus.
Once the light hit me, in an instant, the snake cringed in disbelief, screaming out in agony as the constriction of its body lost all of its power and became nothing more than a garden hose lightly wrapped around my body and the birds flew to the ground burying their own heads in the dirt trying to protect themselves from the light. Although the light was piercing and destructive to the snake and the birds, it shined brightly on me lighting up the dark world around me and filling me with strength in my muscles and bones and warmth in my veins. It breathed new life into my lungs. I took a quick glance around, picked up my belongings and began my journey up the plank. The snake and the birds continue to follow behind me trying to hide their heads in my shadow. They get closer if I turn around and walk back down the plank, which I inevitably do from time to time, but as long as I keep my feet planted firmly and continue walking upward toward the light, they can never touch me again.
What are the birds and the snake in your life? Have you ever had a problem, thought you had a solution, but then the solution became a bigger problem than the original problem?