Thanks to E.B. White I have a guilt complex I need to block out every time I kill a spider. Or perhaps I more accurately should blame Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Dominic Scott Kay, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Paramount Pictures, & Sagittarius Productions, and everyone else involved in the making of "Charlotte's Web," the movie. Since watching & re-watching the movie (which I adore) I feel guilty for even shuddering when a spider crosses my line of sight, which has been much more frequent of late.
I do not know the varying characteristics of different spider species, but I have discovered that the ones I've been seeing carrying their developing young with them are not the same species as Charlotte. (That's a relief because I killed one that I saw a few weeks ago!) Unlike Charlotte and the spiders of her kind, these spiders I've seen live to see and nurture their young to maturity. Charlotte and her specie of spider give their lives in exchange for their young. And such is the kind of spider I believe I happened upon the other day.
I was going about the chore of hanging up the laundry to dry outside when I saw her. I was just ready to give a big shiver and mutter some utterance of disgust when I remembered Charlotte. I reminded myself that this spider would not be the one to suddenly drop down my back or scurry up my leg because I was not close enough and it was not active enough. A thought which made me pause long enough to consider the lack of reaction from her when I disrupted her perch, and the sagging shrunken look of her abdomen. As I observed her slow and minimal movements, I became aware that this spider was "languishing."
I thought of Charlotte and tried to quietly go about my business without disrupting her. She was hanging up in a corner and I thought that perhaps there could be a more comfortable place for her to die, but I just couldn't bring myself to bother disturbing her or getting too near myself for my own liking. Eventually though, my business ended up disturbing her and after a fall from her perch I assisted her to the ground to finish her life in peace and comfort. I'm not sure if I over-sentimentalized the moment or if I was just taking time to absorb the reality of creation, but I had a reverential mood come over me which I believe motivated my concern that this spider (of all things) have a peaceful death. I was not troubled or traumatized by the fact that the spider was dying (a dead spider, after all, suits my creepy crawly abhorrence best). I just had a mingling of sadness and respect for her because I realized that like Charlotte she was laying down her life so that her young could live. Suddenly I didn't need to wonder why God would create a creature whose life entailed living long enough to produce thousands of premature spiderlings wrapped in an egg-sac, and then die.
Why wouldn't God create a creature whose central achievement is dying to give life? Why wouldn't God whisper the mission of His Son into the design of a spider? Seems so lowly and unworthy a way of pointing to and glorifying the work and purpose of Jesus, considering how I feel about spiders. Yet, yet, it is the way Jesus has been presented to us all along. My initial response to the spider and to Jesus and His call and will for my life are often parallel; fulfilling God's prophesy in Isaiah 53:2: "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. . . he was despised, and we esteemed him not. "
I think my reverence for the languishing spider was fed by my realization that this spider's purpose was bigger than infusing this earth with thousands of spiderlings with which I will coexist (shudder). Her greater purpose was to by living the destiny designed for her, proclaim the work of Jesus for humanity. What a noble purpose. What a lowly messenger. I need to be just like her. And together we still won't offer enough glory that My Saviour deserves. But I do believe God plans to remedy that on that day when the whole world will see Jesus for who He is. And I know that my response on that day will no longer be shudders of despise, but praises of wonder. I will join the angels in their worship proclaiming, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." (Revelation 5:12) And I will join all remaining created beings in the echoes of "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." (Revelation 5:13) Sigh.