Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
Snake in the Attic


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several years ago, Karen and I were invited to conduct a marriage retreat in the town where my parents grew up. The church that invited us is where my father and mother were married. The retreat was to be in a cabin located out in the country. This is where Karen and I were to sleep. When we were taken to the cabin, the gentleman in charge said as he was leaving, “Oh, if you hear a noise in the attic, don’t panic. We keep a snake up there to kill the rodents.” It was then that I noticed that the bed in which we were to sleep was located near the door to the attic. Even worse, there was a huge gap between the floor and the bottom of the door—just enough room for that snake to crawl through.

If we suppress our emotions,
they get stronger and do not go away.

The night before the retreat, Karen and I visited my brother and his wife, who lived in a nearby town. When we returned to the cabin, we discovered a car had crashed into a nearby utility pole, knocking out all electricity in the area. Karen and I entered a dark cabin, fumbling around for candles and matches. I was so afraid we’d find that snake instead!

We lit the candles and placed them around our bed. I couldn’t sleep for fear the candles would blow out, leaving the room pitch dark. Karen, on the other hand, went to sleep right away. Later, she said, “If the snake bit me, I would be asleep.”

Every now and then, I heard movement in the attic. I just knew it was that snake moving around, so I stayed awake all night, praying that the snake wouldn’t visit me. What a joy to see the sunrise! Its light illuminated the dark corners that seemed so scary during the night. In the light of day, they were only corners.

It takes a lot of work to suppress what we do not want others to know. For instance, some people, when they go through the grieving journey, stuff their feelings away. They do not want to talk about them. They will say, “That was the past. We need to get over it.” Talking is a way to bring our feelings and hurt out into the light where we can deal with it. If we suppress our emotions, they get stronger and do not go away. By bringing them out into the light, we can begin healing.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700