The spider and its web have been blocking my path between the car and the carport post for several days now. It’s a tiny little spider, with a sandy-colored camouflage that is perfect for this West Texas landscape. The web spirals out in thousands of gossamer rectangles that glint then disappear in the bright sun, easily covering an area from the spider’s perspective of many, many miles.
Wanting to capture a picture of something so marvelous and mysterious, I grabbed my phone and positioned myself as close as I dared to focus on the spider and its almost-invisible threads. Under normal circumstances, I’m sure my phone’s camera would have given me a decent shot of the web, especially in the bright sunlight surrounding me. But, the West Texas wind made its daily appearance, whipping at the spider and its web. I watched through the phone screen as the web with its sheer strings bobbed back and forth with the merciless wind. Despite a continual pounding, the web gave but did not break.
With a sigh, I gave up on capturing the spider web as it moved, and went on with my day, but not before I was struck with the idea of how like a spider’s web is our faith, which believes in that which we cannot see in a world that constantly seeks to batter the thin fibers holding our beliefs together.
Perhaps the idea of how gossamer yet strong faith can be meant more to me than usual because as I started up my car, I was headed for the hospital, where I’ve been schlepping back and forth for almost two weeks now as my mother goes through yet another procedure to try to make her life bearable until ALS finally wins its grim game. I have been away from my husband and home for more than a month now, with several weeks still yet to go as we get mom home and adjusted to the new routines required now that she’s had this latest procedure.
But I am not the only one whose faith has been tested in these last weeks, not by a long shot. In my immediate world, I know people who have likewise faced the challenges that test our endurance to believe. One young woman is a new mama, juggling her first-born and a father who is facing major medical issues that require a transplant operation of mammoth proportions. Just this week, she unexpectedly lost her sister-in-law and good friend out of the blue, a young woman with a husband and three kids of her own. Two other couples are living with held breaths, both praying at-risk pregnancies make it to fruition this time. Another family is just coping with a mother who had unexpected complications from a procedure that has landed her in a nursing home while one of her older sons suddenly suffered from a stroke in the past few days. In yet another family, the once vibrant mother who ran five miles every morning now has trouble coping with each day as she succumbs to early-onset Alzheimer’s. This last week, she broke her hip and wakes up trying to walk every day because she has no short-term memory.
Faith allows me to accept many things that my finite, human brain could never otherwise explain. I know that God doesn’t want any of these bad things to happen to us. Do you doubt it? So many examples of God’s mercy exist in the Bible, I wonder at those who do. I wonder at myself when, in my darkest, most human moments, I have the same doubt.
Consider the story of Jonah and the whale. Jonah is reluctant to go to Nineveh, in part because he knows how truly wicked the people there are. Once God forcibly gets Jonah to the city, the prophet is dumbfounded when the people listen to him and repent. When God spares Nineveh, Jonah goes off to pout. “I knew you would find a way to show these heathens mercy,” he whined. “Why did you put me through all of this fuss and bother if you knew you were going to be forgiving like always anyway?”
Throughout the story of our relationship with God, we humans have pushed Him away and away and yet never seem surprised that He shows up when we finally call to Him. The Bible tells us that God is slow to anger and wants everyone to come to know Him and believe, and most of the time our actions seem to reflect a firm belief that God will be infinitely patient with us. We put off getting our acts together, testing God’s love for us, pushing Him away so that we also put off receiving all the wonderful gifts of faith.
The power of faith truly lived is every bit as strong as that gossamer spider’s web. It saves us from worry. It keeps us in the presence of our almighty God. It hugs us in the deepest places of hurt and opens our darkest parts to the light. There is a reason why Jesus tells us the faith of a mustard seed, such a tiny, tiny particle, is enough to move a mountain.
But how do we live our faith when all these bad things in an evil world keep piling on top of us? I have to admit, my Bible study and prayer time have dwindled these past weeks between going to the hospital and doing a thousand other things around my parents’ house helping with my mother’s special needs. Have I remembered every time I’ve felt lonely or afraid to cry out to Jesus? Of course not. But I keep working at it. I know this much, the study and praying and learning about Jesus that I have done during the less chaotic times of my life are the foundation by which I cope with the challenges of today.
I know my Redeemer lives. I know I can call to Him any and every time I feel the need, and He will be there. I have woven my own spider web, I suppose, through a lifetime of trying to know Him through His Word, through time alone with Him and through my interactions with other believers.
If faith is like a spider web, it is woven through a lifetime of loving and living God. You don’t have to worry about the yesterdays you’ve wasted. With God, each morning is another day, full of promise, ripe for forgiveness. The path to your perfect, or imperfect, web begins with a first step. God isn’t going anywhere. Are you?