I went through a really rough time after high school. I think a lot of people find that summer between high school and college to be generally difficult, but I was going through a lot. Among other things, I was worried I would lose touch with my friends (a few of my best friends were moving away for college), and I had a lot of stuff going on with my family that was causing tension in the home.
This began to wear on me spiritually. I was angry with God for allowing all this drama to happen to me at once. There were a lot of complicated emotions, and I’m not ashamed to admit that a lot of it was childish, petty, and an overreaction to my situation. I became very depressed. To make a long story short, I was able to talk to my mother about what I was going through and she got me in touch with a Christian counselor. He helped point me in the right direction, and I began praying and reading my Bible again as I started college.
Although I started giving up my feelings of bitterness and anger towards God and the other people in my life, I still felt pretty awful. I began to ask God for some sign of His presence; I needed hope.
We ask God for things quite often. I can’t count the number of times I have asked God to help me on a test, to change someone’s heart, or to heal someone’s illness. But I wonder, and I think we all do…would I have done well on that test anyway? Was that person already close to change? Did my sick friend’s body fight off the illness on its own? I had never seen God’s presence in a way that was completely undeniable, and now I needed to know that He was right there beside me.
On another note, I had been wanting a pet snake for a while. Yes, ew, gross — get it out of your system. Both my parents gave very firm “nos” to my request. But I would still research keeping snakes to pass the time between college classes. I knew what kind of snake I wanted and what color (a female rosy boa of the Otay Lake locality, if you were curious). Rosy boas aren’t all that common in my neck of the woods, and you often have to buy them online. I found one of the only breeders with a website, and I would browse through it when I should have been paying attention in math class.
The spring semester came and I was still struggling, still praying that God would do something undeniable in my life. It didn’t have to be big — just something that I would know, 100 percent, was Him. One day my mother came into my room to tell me that God was urging her to let me get a snake, although she wasn’t entirely sure why, and that my dad had told her he was feeling the same thing. I was excited to have a hobby to focus on that might distract me from my depression.
I checked the breeder’s site and he had an Otay Lake female due to have a litter in the fall. I spent the summer saving up and buying what I would need. Fall came and I got in touch with the breeder. The female would give birth any day, and there was only one other person ahead of me for the Otay Lake litter. The snake gave birth and had only two babies. Very unusual. One male and one female. The person ahead of me chose the male; I got the breeder’s only new Otay Lake female.
It took me a while to choose a name for her. Snakes have to have a cool name. I browsed a baby name website, trying to find a name that struck me as cool, but not too edgy or try-hard, and I settled on Thadine. It didn’t occur to me until a few weeks later to look up what that name means. It has a couple meanings, but one of them is “gift from God.”
God is with us all the time. If you grew up in the church, it was drilled into your head in Sunday school, and if you became a Christian later in life, it is still one of the first things you were taught about God. But we are human, and it’s hard for us to trust in things we can’t see or hear or touch. It’s OK to tell God that you want to feel His presence. It’s OK to tell Him you want to see Him. It’s OK to voice your doubts and insecurities.
Sometimes God purposefully stays silent, and there can be many reasons for this. But there is nothing wrong with asking God to comfort you through a sign of His presence. God understands, and is perfectly capable of showing us that He is right here beside us in significant, personal ways, even if they may seem small or silly to other people. In my case, He used a snake that sits in her cave for over 20 hours a day to teach me a big lesson about His love.