The hot air of summer blew gently around me as I sat relaxed on a bridge. My feet dangled over the edge as my dog happily splashed and swam about in the cool waters of the river below. As I leaned back resting on both hands, I looked up to observe a tiny spider scuttle across a metal rail.
The sun’s rays penetrated its translucent body filling it with light. It moved away from me with purpose. To my left I watched tiny threads of spider silk drift in the breeze, glistening delicately as they stretched out across the invisible air currents. I was filled with appreciation for what I saw as a moment of beauty.
But I did not always feel this way. I had grown up with a mother who was afraid of anything that flew, crawled or buzzed about her. She was a fearful person in other respects too, but her fear of spiders went beyond that, it was instead a terror that went past the normal human response to fear; like increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating or flight. I experienced her terror on a number of occasions, but one in particular stood out and was likely to be the activating event that led to my own fearful response to spiders.
I was about eight years old, and a spider, I remember to be about as big as my hand is now, thick and hairy, settled in to a spot high up in the hallway. My mother saw it just as we were leaving the house in the early morning. Away all day we arrived back home an hour or so before my step dad was due and it had not moved. My mother started on tasks on the kitchen, but frequently popped back to check on it. Ten minutes before my step dad was expected it started to move down the wall.
I remember my mother’s terror as she stood on an armchair in the lounge, screaming, crying and in total panic. My brother who was three clambered up on to the sofa and was crying too. I stood at the bottom of the staircase watching, the spider reached the top stair and continued its walk downwards. I looked at the spider, and I looked across at my mother, feeling scared and wondering what was going to happen when the spider reached the ground.
I had to do something. So I opened the front door and ran out in to the street. As it happened two men were walking past and I pleaded to them for help. I don’t remember what they said, but I do remember their awkward acceptance of the task. They came in to the hallway and looked about. No sign of the spider. A minute or so after their arrival my step dad arrived on the scene and they left. My mother stayed on the chair and had him move furniture and belongings to search for it. Still no sign, so she had him take up the carpet and the floorboards to continue the search. But the spider was gone!
As an adult, I had many of my own spider traumas. I knew my fear was completely irrational and I tried unsuccessfully to control my response a couple of times. One night though after becoming emotionally exhausted attempting to cover (with a box) a particularly large spider in my bathroom, I called a taxi. The man who arrived was so kind and I thought it was the best two pounds I had ever spent! But I decided the time had come to get external help and overcome this fear.
I found a holistic counsellor who thought a guided meditation in a deeply relaxed state would be of benefit. This was years before I had any conscious thought about becoming Christian, or had any particular view on God. During the meditation the counsellor walked me through a beautiful garden. From the garden a doorway appeared and I entered in to room. I was to imagine a spider sat still and harmlessly on a table. As the counsellor gently spoke of how safe I was, how relaxed I was, how harmless the spider was, a bright white light filled the room in my mind. The light was so bright, but not blinding like the sun. I was relaxed, and I started to feel a sense of joy, and wonder. Then the spider spoke to me. I relayed what I was seeing and hearing back to the counsellor, the vision in my mind had taken over, going beyond the guidance. The spider told me it was one of God’s creatures and said it had as much right to live as any other creature to be found on the earth.
This memorable experience changed my reactions, but when I came across a large spider in the house, I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I started hoovering them up. Although not yet a Christian, I would tell myself they were going to hoover heaven. Though this was enormous progress, after becoming Christian in 2016 I started to feel this was still not good enough.
“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25 ESV.
Now a Christian and knowing that Jesus was with me, I decided to use visualisation again, this time, to go back with Him in my mind to the incident in the hallway. As Jesus stood watchfully next to me, my older self hugged and comforted the younger me. Having battled this alone for years, I now had Jesus to show me how to fully overcome and be healed.
“So do not fear, for I am with you,” Isaiah 41:10 NIV.
So now if a spider runs in to the open, sometimes I catch them in a cup and release under a bush outside, but then others I have decided can just go about their business. Occasionally I’ll hoover up a couple of dust spiders, feel guilty and ask for forgiveness. After all, spiders have a purpose, each one will form its own tiny part within an important food chain. The natural world is a series of complex interactions, where every creature is in some way dependent on another. The finely tuned balance of nature achieved ultimately to sustain every one of us.
Father God, Lord of all creation, fill our thoughts with Your love and kindness. Let Your love and light drive out all fear and darkness in our minds. Open our minds Lord to see as You see, to love as You love. In Jesus name. Amen.
Whenever we focus on one thing our perspective narrows, our minds close. When we think that what we do does not matter much, this narrow view misses that we are part of a complex global system. Each one of our individual actions can accumulate to have much wider implications. For example, one person drops litter or walks past it on a walk, or at home they do not put a plastic bottle in the appropriate recycle bin. No big deal. It’s just one bit of plastic. But when many people think like that, suddenly, as we see now, the ocean is full of our plastic waste. The small, the seemingly inconsequential becomes an environmental crisis that affects the food chains we depend on. What small thing could you do differently today that might have a potentially bigger impact?