Hey there! Fall is in the air, it’s a crisp day, so grab some cider. Iced or hot, doesn’t matter, pick your favorite. Now grab a comfy spot in the sun and relax.
This is the time of year for Halloween with all of its decorations, etc. Time to put away the summer stuff and drag out the fall stuff. Invariably, someone will have spiders as part of their fall decor; inevitably, I will start finding eight-legged crawly things in my house. Did you hear me scream? They make webs everywhere, and pop up in the most startling places – I’ve had them hiding behind the canisters on my kitchen counter, behind the perfume bottle at the bathroom sink, or dropping down from the ceiling fan. Sometimes, they like to share my shower. Eek!
But spider webs (sans arachnids!) are actually amazing things to study. Patterns, configurations, and utility are amazing. They are so thin, so flimsy, and stick to everything. I hate it when I walk through one and it gets stuck on me. Did you hear that shriek, too? Spiders use their webs to catch food, to make their homes, to travel from one place to another sometimes. How often have you observed a spider ‘rappelling’ down a thread of silk from the roof to the ground, or from the ceiling to the floor? Ever watch one catch a breeze and float horizontally in midair as it begins a new web?
The interesting thing is how strong the spider silks are! I’ve read that ounce for ounce, spider webs are stronger than steel, and more flexible than the most flexible of metals at the same time. That’s pretty amazing! We talked about walking through one – ever notice how strong they are when they are bunched together, and how sticky they are? It still amazes me that an apparently flimsy little spider web can hold a trapped horse fly.
I find a couple of different types of ‘cobwebs’ in my life, as well. Little things that start out not meaning much, but that collect and grow into incredibly strong habits. Like, indulging during a meal. It’s okay to do this occasionally, when it’s truly a special occasion. The problem for me is that pretty soon, everything becomes an exception to discipline – first it’s someone’s birthday, then it’s eating out with the neighbor, then it’s eating out every night with different friends, throwing the healthy diet completely out the window. That bit of intemperance bleeds over into other areas and the next thing I know, I have a logging chain that started as a few cobwebs.
When I was beginning my recovery from drugs and alcohol, they kept telling us ‘go to a meeting’ and ‘do the next right thing’ and ‘call your sponsor’. They promised us that every tiny little positive step would add to the pile and eventually we would feel differently, act differently, live differently. You know what? It worked. However, I sure couldn’t tell at the time that it was working! They were like those little cobwebs; but they stuck to me, and they made me stronger as I consistently piled them on. Simply going to a daily meeting, calling my sponsor, and getting through this single moment or that situation without a drink, added up – all those moments grew into days, then weeks, then months, and finally years.
The good part of our spiritual life is like that, too. Every Mass or service we attend, every prayer we whisper, every Sacrament we receive, every good deed, every act of obedience or devotion, no matter how small, add up. They stick to us and change how we look, how we act, how we live. They grow stronger as we pile them up, and strengthen us. These little combined actions help us gain spiritual food, they help shelter us in the storms of life, they can float us along our journey as we follow the breath of the Spirit.
I still don’t like spiders. But their webs can encourage me to keep doing the little things that all add up to a strong life. All the little things that make my life better. So, today I will tell the Lord ‘thank you’ for spiders and the lesson He’s taught me through them. I will say thank you – and ask Him to please keep them out of my house!