The article below is written by an accomplished writer, speaker, counselor, and a former pastor who I am honored to call friend. Ramon Presson and I have known each other for several years. I asked him for an article for my blog that was not one of his hysterically funny pieces but one that reflects on something I think he does so well, put things in perspective.
I feel this article ties in well to a new book he wrote that I just got done reading, When Will My Life Not Suck? The book is short, easy to read, and excellent, a hard-to-put-down book. Those of us that know this man want the sales to soar. Trust me when I say he has put his heart and soul into this book; he wrote this for everyone as a sort of mission, a calling if you will. The book is not just for the depressed, the lowly, or those who need an attitude adjustment, it offers something to everyone who picks it up and quickly reads it. It is full of his trademark humor, it’s beautifully written, interspersed with a story from scripture compared to present-day life. He uses real people as illustrations to make his points (including himself) and yes, I even saw my name mentioned in there too. The compassion of Christ and the blessing of my friend Ramon spills off the pages … buy a copy, you will not be disappointed. If you are, I want to hear from you! Veronica Gliatti
“Truth and Snake Charming”
(Courtesy of author Ramon Presson, M.S.)
The young lady was willingly doing something you could not pay me enough to do—walk around in an enclosed pit of snakes. An employee of the quaint zoon near Maggie Valley, NC, Allison laced the top of her boots as she spoke to the twenty people gathered around the fenced rim of the rectangular concrete pit, the floor crawling and oozing with snakes. My skin was crawling all over itself trying to get away. Armed with only a short metal pole with a hook on the end, Allison closed the gate behind her and took the several steps down into my worst nightmare. Allison shuffled her feet among the serpents. (“I’m shuffling instead of picking my feet up because I don’t want to step on a snake and hurt it.”) Compassion for snakes seems rather misdirected if you ask me.
Allison would gather up a reluctant specimen with her hooked pole and describe it to us, including whether it was poisonous or not. Most were not, but my heart rate and shallow breathing didn’t seem to register that. In my ecology every snake is deadly and must be avoided or killed—preferably by someone else. But the lady moved easily about the crawlers, talking to the evil creatures as if they were a litter of puppies or flock of lambs.
Talking Back to Fear
Our brave (or crazy) Allison anticipated the question on everybody’s mind, (besides the one about her ever being able to attract a normal husband): “How can you not be deathly afraid of being in a pit of snakes, some poisonous, all slithering and fully equipped with fangs?”
“You see these boots?” Allie said. She told us what kind of tough material her dark tan boots were made of, but it was definitely not the steel or iron which I would have insisted on. Allie said that a snake bite could not penetrate the hide. Not only that but the height of the boots were calculated to exceed the height above the ground at which any snake (other than cobra) could strike. “Since snakes do not elevate their heads and strike more than 12–18 inches off the ground I’m safe as long as I don’t fall down in here.” Now I had a new horrific image to paint in my head—falling face-first into a brood of vipers.
Later that evening it occurred to me that while Allison is more inherently comfortable with slimy reptiles than I am, her fear and anxiety were calmed by truth. First, she knew that no snake’s fangs could penetrate the tough boots she wore to protect her lower legs. Secondly, Allie knew there was no snake present in the pit physically able to strike above the top of her protective boots. Thirdly, she knew that as long as she did not fall, she was completely safe.
If the Truth Be Told
The words of Jesus came to mind, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Allison knew the truth about the snakes and her gear and that knowledge set her free from fear, enabling her to stroll among serpents. Think of the logical converse of Jesus’ words: if knowing and believing the truth is what sets you free, then what holds you captive? Yes, you and I are held captive by believing falsehoods, subtle lies, while operating as though the fallacy is completely valid and accurate.
I see clients, friends, loved ones seemingly unable to believe the better truth about themselves and instead give the podium to a magnification of a past mistake, or hand over the microphone to an exaggeration of a weakness. They silence the voice of contrary evidence which affirms their character, intelligence, ability, and worth. I see people who sadly engage in self-branding with damaging nouns and adjectives, or who accept the labels pronounced upon them by others. I wish to help them gaze into a more truthful and grace-filled mirror. I long for them to embrace the line from Calvin Miller’s The Singer that “No man may burn a label into flesh and make it stay when heaven disagrees.” And that, my friends, is the truth.
One of Tennessee’s most published therapists, author Ramon Presson is the founder of LifeChange Counseling & the Marriage Center of Franklin. Visit him at www.LifeChangeCS.org