I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?
And they are decidedly not cool.
I cannot explain this.
All I know is, there is family lore about me involving a bathtub, multiple shoes, and one large spider.
Also there is another story involving me, a spider on the shower wall, and a subsequent non-family-friendly dash through the vacation rental house, but that is a story we do not need to share.
I am certifiably terrified of spiders. I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I knew they spent their creepy crawly existence. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.
So what, oh what, could have ever inspired the picture below? (Warning—graphic picture below. No, not of the shower dash. Worse.)
It was Costa Rica’s fault.
I was leading a team from church to Costa Rica to minister over Christmas break. I spent weeks coaxing and counseling team members out of their fears: Where will the money come from? What if I get sick? Should I really take my kid? Can I take two weeks off of work? I had answers for all of them. I wrote the book with those answers. Literally.
Yet in the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I realized I had that one niggling fear that I refused to face. The spiders. After all, they grow some big spiders in Costa Rica.
It seems small, to think of fear of spiders as a huge impediment to mission, but the truth was, I knew I had to face it or be a hypocrite. I couldn’t coach others to take medicine I would not swallow. Plus, if my ministry is to lead others away from fear, I’d better be willing to charge toward it myself.
I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.
Seriously, God gave me such a calm that the whole thing was kind of surreal and interesting. Plus, I made sure to get it on video. Because, you, know, this is not going to be repeated on an annual basis or anything. I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–
Fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.
Who Has Control?
Whenever fear, whatever the fear, controls our choices, it blocks who we were made to be. The older I get and the more I go through, the more I am adamant – I do not want to give control over to anyone but God. Certainly not an eight-legged critter with a brain the size of . . . I don’t know . . . do spiders have brains? Conventional ones? No clue. But I do know they have to be smaller than human brains, based on fundamental laws of physics.
“Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.” (Romans 8.14-15, The Message)
What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.
So why don’t we? Why don’t we feel like we are created for incredible purpose? Why don’t we wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” Why don’t we expect wonder?
Fear Steals Our Identity
Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We’re terribly afraid to step into identity as those children of God, because it might mean risk, conflict, change. We may dread mornings, but at least we know them. Being God’s representative – Stepping into our identity as His children and taking on whatever that means? That’s a scary unknown. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.
It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.
Observer or Participant?
“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.”
Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.
So the question for me in front of that spider aquarium was: Do I want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life–or do I want to participate in one?
God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! And spiders to hold.