My feet were warm on the patio even though the sun was down and the cloudless, starry South Dakota sky spread overhead. My dogs were taking their time coming in that October evening. My son slept inside. We were two months into our move to my home state, just the two of us, forced into a move I never planned to make on my own. While I waited, I remembered to acknowledge the stars above me, bright in the dark here on the edge of town.
Then I glanced down, and something small crawled in the dim light of the porch and surprised me. I couldn’t tell what it was. A small frog? A large beetle? Maybe a spider? But its edges were blurred and undefined.
When I neared closer, it jumped forward, lunged. With that much courage, my best guess was that it most definitely was a spider. I’d seen such bravery in the small black and white jumping spiders who had guarded the doors of my last home in California. They endeared themselves to me so much that I let them be when they found their way into my home, knowing that they would happily settle into corners to catch stray insects. Like them, this spider also continued to pounce at me as I examined it. Wanting to test its courage, I tapped the ground in front of it with a large stick. Without hesitation, it continued to move toward me aggressively until it finally found the cleft into the grass and disappeared.
Still mystified by its undefined edges, I remembered the many tiny tunnels that hid in the short grass in the prairie nearby. Wolf spiders built those tunnels, neatly weaving dry grass into circles around their entrances, stealthily waiting to catch passing prey. The holes were perfectly round and smooth, allowing for easy access and movement. On early morning walks, I sometimes spotted the spiders hanging out in their doorways, enjoying the sunrise. When the sun shone just right, sometimes my son and I spotted loose webs draped in the foot-long circle above their dens. The webs attached to the autumn grasses, rising up and across from many different points to create ribs like an umbrella or circus tent. They waited for guests to visit and become the main course. A light touch to the web brought the householder spider quickly out of its tunnel to the doorway, ready to greet whomever was there.
After the wolf spider on my patio found its hiding place, I went in to look up spiders and their babies. And so it was – a single mom – a mama wolf spider – had visited me on her evening walk, carrying an infinity of miniscule babies on the sky of her back. No hesitation bound her even when threatened by a gargantuan human. No daddy spider stayed to help her protect the babies. She was brave, and she knew it.
Even her very image – her very identity – changed with the addition of babies on her back, altering the physical marks of her identity. Her offspring came with her everywhere – even on her evening walks – as she hunted and sought shelter. They were hers.
My son continued to sleep while I researched spiders and put the dogs to bed. I wanted to be brave like her. I remembered the times I’d had to guard him, fight for him, look out for his needs when others dismissed my concerns – and then I realized I already was like her. I’d single-handedly moved him with me across half the continent, bringing him to a new den, a new home. A single mom, like the wolf spider. God, of course, had been with us the entire time, moving with us no matter where we were. I prayed that my identity, as blurry as it sometimes was, would be defined by my trust in God to spread a net over us. Not to trap and kill as the spiders did, but to catch love and strength and endurance. To provide a framework for us to find our spiritual food and seek shelter. To find a place we could call home.
What gives you inspiration and affirmation? Can you look for unexpected examples in life to help carry you through? I’d love to know!
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