March winds have torn the plastic on our little greenhouse, so I clomped out in my rubber boots last Tuesday to reinforce what I could. I needed the staple gun from the shed, so I fit the key in the lock and pushed the door open. My eyes widened to the darkness and ran up over the rafters, where we’ve stacked tomato cages and hockey goals.
I didn’t always hesitate in the doorway, but one day last summer, I climbed onto the mower in the shed and was just about to turn the key, when something caught my eye. I looked up to see a black snake coiling itself along one of the pipes right above me. It moved between a gap in the loft floorboards, from one side to the other, pulling its long body behind it. Needless to say, I fired up the tractor and backed out of the shed a little faster than usual.
It’s winter now and reptiles are sleeping, so I’ve read. Even so, I ducked into the shed, grabbed the staple gun, and ducked out, fumbling for the door behind me. I was stepping around to the greenhouse when a military helicopter tore the air and rose low over the trees. My thoughts immediately flew a sea and continent away to Ukraine and its people— the smoke and splintered homes, the makeshift NICU in an underground bomb shelter, the babies and their fleeing mothers.
The chopper swept over the shed and died away behind the woods, and I went back to my work tucking in the loose plastic, then transplanting lettuce shoots into a raised bed. The soil was colder than I would have liked, but I planted anyway, because I was aching to see something grow and bear fruit in this wilderness of winter-spring. Gardening in February and March is always a toss-up. There’s wisdom in it, because you may have mature seedlings by April. But there’s tomfoolery, too, because you can be too eager and plant things too soon, only to let the frost eat them alive.
Oh, they’re infinitesimal sufferings compared to Ukraine and the world at large. Yet even here, at the woods’ edge in March, there’s a snake in the shed. There’s war in the air. There’s a ground that’s cursed and groans. The Snake left the garden with Adam and Eve and followed them into the wilderness, and he makes everything about living here a fright. Somewhere just over our shoulder, he’s coiled in the rafters, “seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Used to, I thought the “enmity” in Genesis 3 is why girls ever since have been skittish around snakes. (Isn’t it why I backed the mower out of the shed instead of taking up a sledgehammer against him?) But the real war was already fought between the Serpent and the Seed of the woman— Eve’s and Leah’s and Rahab’s and Mary’s Son.
The Snake planted a seed in God’s garden that would grow and strangle creation; but God planted a Seed in his garden, too, and it would grow, then die, then shoot back up into resurrection life. When Jesus came out from the tomb, Mary “supposed him to be the gardener,” and she was right.
“He is the Gardener,” write Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg, “He is the second Man, the last Adam, who is now beginning to restore the garden.”[i]
The Gardener is returning to his garden, and hallelujah, he’s going to deal one final sledgehammer blow to the Snake looming in the shed rafters.
“In that day the LORD with his hand and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
In that day,
‘A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!
I, the LORD, am its keeper;
Every moment I water it…
In the days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots
and fill the whole earth with fruit.’”
~ Isaiah 27:1-3, 6
[i] Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson, Name above All Names (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2013), 34