October, being the month of All Hallows’ Eve – and all things creepy-crawly – I thought it appropriate to share with you my “Spider Theology.” Its origins (based on a true story when we lived in Wichita, Kansas), began as retold below:
A couple of weeks ago, I came home one evening to find the garage door open and Diane in a bit of a tizzy. With large broom in hand, she was standing warily in the driveway by the garage entrance. When I rolled down the car window and looked at her as if to say, “What’s going on?” Diane informed me, “When I moved the trash bin, a huge spider crawled out and came right at me!”
Now, normally, my wife is an extremely capable gal . . . except where spiders are concerned; then all of her fierce independence and women’s lib goes right out the window. After duly inspecting every corner of the garage (while Diane stood in the yard with her broom) I declared it a `spider-free’ zone. “But where did it go?” Diane insisted. “Oh, it probably crawled back under the house,” I said. That thought did not comfort.
All of that then reminded me of something that happened a few years ago, when I had – what you might call – a Very Spider Sunday.
It began during the morning worship service. As I was leading the congregation through the Prayer of Confession, a teensy weensy spider crawled diagonally across my bulletin and strolled directly through the prayer we were saying together, from the right margin to the left (must have been a Hebrew spider). As I recall, I may have even mentioned it during the Assurance of Pardon. Then, just a few moments later, as Brigitte read the day’s Scripture passage, I lifted my pew Bible to find, apparently, a cousin of the first spider, dangling precipitously upon a slender thread from the center binder.
That one definitely got my attention.
That very night, Diane and I attended the last performance of Les Miserables, with the incomparable Nick Saverine (who had graced our own sanctuary with his glorious gift of song just the previous Sunday) in the lead role. Upon returning home, about 10:30 p.m. or so, as I pulled into the driveway, pushed the button for the garage door opener and began to pull in, Diane yells, “Stop…STOP!”, which I dutifully did just at the edge of the garage door. “Look!” she points at the front windshield. And there, perched in the middle of a few long strands of web strung from the eaves of the roof to the pavement, was yet another – this time much larger – spider barring our way into the garage.
Apparently Diane’s long war against spiders had reached a moment of détente.
Thus, being the good Christian pacifists we are, we sat there in the driveway for several minutes debating what to do. “You can’t just drive through it!” Diane protested. “It’s his home.”
“Yeah, well it’s my home, too,” I reminded her.
Finally, after determining that there was nothing left for it but to push ahead, we did so … albeit very, very slowly. The bottom anchor of the web severed by my front bumper, the top half floated wistfully in the breeze, while the spider scurried up it and disappeared safely (if somewhat disgruntled) into the rafters.
At that point, the recurring theme of spiders was getting kind of hard to ignore.
But, now, here’s where it really gets interesting.
The very next evening, as I pulled into the driveway at the end of a long day, a spider (presumably the same spider) had again made his – this time quite a bit more developed – web once more in front of the garage door. And even though the web had been spun a few feet off to one side this time, unfortunately, I still could not avoid disrupting his persistent efforts. “Some spiders got no brains,” I muttered as I drove into my garage.
Now, are you ready for this? The next night … you guessed it … that same spider cast yet another elongated web from gable to ground. But this time the spider had made his web far enough to the side so that I could move my car into the garage without disrupting his hard day’s work.
The upshot of it all is, I suppose I don’t mind sharing the corner of my house for Mr. Spider’s home if he doesn’t mind me using my own garage to house my car.
Live and let live, I always say.
But, it really left me kind of pondering what God might be trying to say through all these arachnoid encounters.
After much thought, here’s what I’ve come up with …
These are Lessons from the Spider …
First: Ambling idly through Sunday morning liturgy is probably alright if you can somehow keep yourself firmly attached to God’s Holy Word.
(Okay, okay … bear with me now, I’m just getting started.)
Second: It takes a whole lot of courage and no small degree of faith to spin a web in a risky new location (Like that one better?).
I was processing this spidey experience with my nephew Joseph (a huge Spiderman buff), when he asked me, “How do spiders start their web?”
“Well, I think they just shoot out that first strand,” I answered. “You know, some spiders can shoot a really long way.”
Now, I’m not at all positive that that’s true … but as reigning Uncle Tommy, I didn’t want to admit that I really had no earthly idea. But it makes perfect sense, don’t you think? A spider has to launch an initial strand from one far reach to another, to then climb bravely out onto that slender thread to establish itself and begin building its web. It must take a tremendous amount of spider-type faith to move courageously out onto one tenuous thread flung into the dark void with the single hope of creating a new place for oneself in the wide world. To keep building and rebuilding, day after day, convinced by some deep inner spider-sense that your God-given destiny is to boldly build new webs, regardless of hazard or setback.
I began to feel an increasing sense of respect – and awe – for my garage cohabitant’s persistence, as he refused to get discouraged … instead just kept tweaking his design and location until, at last, it proved viable and sacrosanct.
Now, if God places such ingenuity, patience, imagination and dogged perseverance in such a wee creature as my spider tenant, how much more shall God give such good gifts to His people … Oh, ye of little faith?
At any rate, I’m still processing the experience and working out the details of my Spider-Theology. And if you have any suggestions or insights, please feel free to share. Perhaps we can simply suffice it to say, at this point, that God has a plan – a divine plan – for all God’s creatures, big and small. Just as the spider’s destiny is to spin his web, our destiny, as God’s children and followers of Jesus Christ, is to build His Church. And God will not allow us to fail in that grand and glorious endeavor, no matter what the risks.
Although we may need to try and try again, tweaking our design as we go along.
And To God be the Glory!