By Lisa Jackman
One bright and dewy morning, I was standing outside on the front doorstep. I noticed a long, single thread of spider web extending from the guttering to a bush below, where the finished product was on display. It’s maker, a plump and proud wood spider was visible front and centre.
I am not a fan of the spider. I am one of those who, if they dwell too long on one can feel it’s creepy little legs on my skin. It makes me shudder. The point is, it is not in my nature to ponder about them and their ways for any length of time, if at all. But on this day, I felt a simple call to ‘watch’.
And so, I watched carefully, waiting. Within a matter of seconds, a smaller spider of unknown category came at a somewhat frantic pace from the guttering above. It moved at speed along the line, stopping halfway as if unsure and retreating backwards again.
As the interesting turn of events was unfolding, the larger wood spider begin to skilfully and, some might argue deliberately, pull the web underfoot, sending out a little current of vibration. This vibration being evident to me, not just assumed, as I could see the little spider further up the thread wobble in time to the beat of its leg.
I observe the spectacle, the smaller spider gravitating toward the signal the spider sends out and then retreating again, unsure. It was as if, the signal was familiar to it.
Perhaps it believed there was to be a nice big juicy fly for it to feast on. A fly caught in the web and causing a commotion. Did the wood spider know this? From my point of view, it seems to have a very good idea and be using it to its advantage.
Understanding began to dawn. This was an area the Lord was already teaching me in. It brought me back to the time Jesus spent in the desert. He was there for forty days and forty nights without food and without water. During this time, the devil came to tempt Him. He used three persuasive arguments using God’s own Words. In Matt 4: 5-6 we read: ‘Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down: for it is written ‘He will give His angels charge of you’. Had Jesus not known the Word better, being that Word Himself, He might not have recognized the difference. Jesus replied: ‘Again it is written ‘you shall not tempt the Lord your God’ (Matt 4: 7).
And this is where the learning was for me. I must remember that, at times I may feel a signal like the little spider. It might feel like a burden to do more, accomplish more. It could be an urge to help this person or fix that problem. To always say ‘Yes’. After all, isn’t that what Mary did? Is that not what sacrificial love is?
As a Catholic Christian, I want to do the will of my Father, I want to follow where He leads me. As the larger spider knew how to work the emotions of the little spider, so too our enemy knows how to work the emotions of those who follow God. For Christians, misleading might not always look like pornography, drunkenness etc. Our adversary is skilful - he will use even good things like serving and helping to mislead, confuse us, burn us out and distract us from what God wants to achieve individually in our lives by sending out vibrations from a web of words we are familiar with.
For example; a friend in need. Should we not all do as the book of Galatians tells us: ‘carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (6:2). I wonder am I called to fix everything? Likewise, I may have a very productive season-maybe I have accomplished many tasks and suddenly all is still in my world again. Should I listen to that vibration in the web that condemns me in the stillness, with words familiar to my soul: ‘she watches over all the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness’ (Proverbs 31:27).
And like the little spider, I have many times before, and no doubt will many times again, gravitated towards that signal. Doing more instead of enjoying the time of rest God has given me. Fixing and helping in areas God did not ask me to until I feel burnt out and resentful, maybe even a little annoyed with God as Martha was (Lk 10: 38-42). And like Martha having to learn to come back to the feet of Jesus and attune myself to His signal, His voice.
So then, what was the fate of the little spider, I hear you wonder. In this instance, it was not consumed. Eventually, it decided not to trust the signal and retreated back up to the guttering from whence it came. As I watched it make its journey back, I understood in my spirit the words given to us in John chapter 10:27 ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’.
This illustration taught me to trust my Father’s voice and to remember what it sounds like. I’ve learnt that there are certain characteristics I can look out for to decipher who is speaking to me.
Here is how I check the source of prompts now:
1) Am I confused?
2) Am I anxious as a result?
3) Do I feel guilty/condemned/ashamed as a result?
These ‘signals’ is not from my Father.
How do I know this? Because His word tells me: ‘He is not the author of confusion but of peace’ (1 Cor 14:33); ‘He has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind’ (2 Tim 1:7) and that ‘there is therefore now, no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1).
That is not to say that the spirit of the Lord will not correct us and prune us, plant seeds in our hearts and water them until they come to fruition as wonderful works for His glory. The difference in the signal is that when He speaks, it can be no other.
How I now decipher my Father’s signals for action:
1) It is gentle not condemning (Job 26:14)
2) I feel empowered by the call to action (1 Thess 5:24)
3) I feel grief but at peace if the signal was a correction (Heb. 12:11)
The Lord’s correction is like the sun coming up in the morning. It illuminates the darkness, but it is beautiful to behold. His requests of us are more than works. Often ‘works’ are like tapestries. Underneath the surface are many areas of personal growth and challenge that we really needed ourselves. So that when we have completed the request, we suddenly realize, we were ourselves ‘the work’.