Spider Slayer! That sounds like one of those low-budget Hollywood flicks, doesn’t it? Well, it could be … someday. Perhaps I’ll be the star and make a ton of money. I’m not too sure you could get me to don one of those brightly colored spandex jobbies like the other superheroes wear, though. Ew.
Can you just imagine? A 40-something Midwestern housewife in one of those goofy stretchy suits … never mind … let’s not even go there!
For now, Spider Slayer is the title I earned while in Ohio doing a six-day tour of “When’s God Gonna Show Up?” workshops. During my stay, I had a free day between engagements and took advantage of the freedom I had to roam the grounds behind the cottage in which I was staying. The facility hosting my tour, Transfiguration Center, is located on 200 acres of nature preserve, complete with prairie lands and wooded trails.
On this particular day, I explored the prairie lands and headed to the woods. Of course, with woods you get spiders. Nice, big, brown, hairy spiders that like to build their webs across the path.
OK. Their bodies were as big as dimes, but for me – a pathetic city girl – they were huge and scary! The first one I ran into repulsed me (to put it mildly), so, I turned back (at advanced pace) and took a different route. Well, you might have already guessed that it wasn’t long before I was face to face with another of these giant, yucky critters.
I was about to turn back again when something – probably sheer stubbornness – took hold of me. Why should I let some stupid spider – or lots of them, for that matter – deter me from enjoying this beautiful piece of land that God had created? So, I walked a bit into the woods and found a nice, long, straight tree branch. I stripped off all of the small branches and tried it out for size. Perfect! It was just a bit taller than me and had just the right feel to it when I held it in my hand. Plus, it was dry and light enough to swing to and fro at shoulder height.
I took to the path again, this time waving my weapon back and forth so as to get the spiders before they got me. Truly, I was grateful that there was no one else around and, thanks be to God, no cameras either! I’m sure I looked absolutely ridiculous. Add the fact that I was dressed a bit too warmly for the weather, so I had rolled the legs of my jeans up to my knees like some ‘50s middle-schooler. My goodness. But, I was walking through those woods, by golly, having the time of my life. With my trusty, musty spider repulsion stick in hand, I could conquer any trail.
After a while, I got a little tired – my weapon was light, but not that light – so I sat down to rest on one of the benches along the trails. As I was sitting there, I sensed a creepy, brown hairy thing next to me, in between the slats of the bench. Aarrgghhh! That was it! I know they are God’s creatures, but I was not about to give up my hard-earned seat in the resting place to a spider! As quickly and with as much mercy as I could muster, I took the skinny end of my weapon and smooshed the thing. I smugly sat down and returned to my quiet contemplation.
Then I started to chuckle. I almost never go anywhere without Mark and/or at least one of the kids. I usually depend on them to clear the path ahead of me or to do away with anything that scares me. None of them were with me on this trip; I had to go it alone. Without them, I had to be my own defender. Because I was taken out of my comfort zone, I was forced to dig deep and find resources within myself that I didn’t know were there. It was just God and me out on the trail, and he wanted to show me that his grace is sufficient.
When I returned home, I told my spider story to Mark and our son, John. They chuckled at the image in their heads of me walking along and swinging some log around in front of me like some prehistoric cave woman. John is the one who gave me the title “Spider Slayer.” At first, I thought it was funny, but now I’m starting to take it seriously because it’s a reminder to me of what God did for me in those Ohio woods.
When I meditate upon my brave new title, I’m drawn to this passage from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Colossians:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2Co 12:9)
Indeed, power can be made perfect in weakness, whether it be big, scary, brown spiders, some other irrational fear, or even real fears about our safety and well-being. Whatever it is that scares us, God’s grace will be sufficient to see us through if only we place our faith and trust in him. I hope that some day we’ll all become a Spider Slayer or a Whatever Slayer depending on what it is that shakes us in our boots, and that we are blessed by a complete assurance that God’s grace is sufficient.
(Fenelon, her husband, Mark, and their four children belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Visit her Web site.)