This morning, as I came out of our front door and started down the porch steps, I became aware of a single strand of a spider’s web that was “blocking” my path. Before I brushed the tiny obstacle aside, I stopped and marveled for a moment. This filament was stretched across a span of about eight feet, from a branch of a hedge to a corner of the house, forming a miniature “rope bridge” about four feet off the ground. I tried to imagine how the little spider managed that. She had to start at one of the points of contact, drop to the ground while extruding the web material she was hanging by, drag the ever-lengthening filament across the eight-foot span, climb to the other contact point and reel in the excess strand to make her bridge taut. What a night’s work! Probably, the next phase of construction would have resumed tonight, with beginning with the addition of support strands connecting the bridge to other branches and solid contact points. Ultimately, this would probably have developed into a large, elaborate web that could stop a flying insect who thought he had a clear path. Instead, when my spider friend comes out tonight to begin Day 2’s construction, she’ll find just frayed ends where I broke through her bridge. She will not cry. She will not curse the unknown force that thwarted her effort. She will not give up hunting and turn instead to a vegetarian diet. She will simply start over again, in a little different location, building another filament bridge designed to be the main frame of her ingenious web. Her life depends on it.
Spiders are mentioned twice in the Bible, and both times the point has something to do with their web-building prowess.* In Job 8, Bildad, one of Job’s “comforters,” accuses him of building his life on false ideas that are as fragile as a spider’s web:
Such are the paths of all who forget God;
the hope of the godless shall perish.
Their confidence is gossamer,
a spider’s house their trust.
If one leans against its house, it will not stand;
if one lays hold of it, it will not endure. (Job 8:13-15)
Isaiah criticizes those who try to replace true justice with a web of half-truths and shortcuts:
No one brings suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web; whoever eats their eggs dies, and the crushed egg hatches out a viper. Their webs cannot serve as clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths. Their roads they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace. (Isaiah 59:4-8)
I know, I know; the spider’s web seems weak and insubstantial to us. But to an unhappy fly caught in its sticky embrace, struggling with all his energy to escape, the web must seem like tempered steel. Imagine, that inescapable trap started with a tiny little filament strung across an open insect flyway, like the one I wandered into.
The flimsy web of life you’ve been building may seem like nothing compared to the greater forces swirling around you — nations and ideologies clashing, powerful media messages blaring from every direction, geothermal forces twisting and reshaping the earth over many millenia, even the all-encompassing will of God for his created universe. Any of them can brush away your life as a slight momentary nuisance. What can you do? Wake up the next morning and start again with the first strand, as my spider does. Someday you may be able to see a fully completed, beautifully designed, ready-for-action web. Or, to the end of your life you may be repeating what appears to be the cycle of futility, building strand by strand, only to go through another morning of destruction as some greater force bumbles through your life. But you’ll keep trying, keep putting out those tiny filaments of hope, because that’s the way God made you, and he loves you for faithfully doing you best.
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. . . .
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord. (Colossians 3:17, 23)
— Pastor George
* The use of the word “spider” in the King James Version of Proverbs 30:28 has been corrected in all the newer versions. The Hebrew word refers to a variety of lizard.