For our departure from Denver yesterday, our grandson wore his favorite shirt—a Marvel comics tee featuring Spider-Man at the center of the superheroes. Like most five-year-old boys, he loves all things Spider-Man. He has Spidy shoes, pajamas, a backpack, and countless toys, including a device that shoots forth a string of silk in an imitation of Spider-Man’s web.
The shirt elicited commentary from more than one adult, including one who said, “That’s a great shirt! I love superheroes!” And when we passed a kiosk that sold sand crabs to passing tourists, our grandson stopped to point out the ones that had been painted red and imprinted with Spider-Man’s trademark white eyes, lined in black.
So it was fitting that when we finally arrived home in Maryland at 2:30 a.m., a watchful spider had spun a diaphanous web from the branch of the tree beside our front walk. Though my husband and I were exhausted, we stopped to admire the intricate circles of the spider that sat at the very center of the web.
This morning, the web was gone. But I could still see it in my mind’s eye, and I’ve thought about that web all day. Fragile, yes. I could have swept it away last night with a single brush of my hand.
But today I remembered a Smithsonian Magazine story from earlier this spring about University of Leicester researchers who set out to discover whether a spider’s web could actually stop a train, as Spider-Man’s web had done in one of the films. Yes, they concluded, there is one spider—Darwin’s bark spider, native to Madagascar—that could weave a web strong enough to stop a moving train.
I was reminded again that that delicacy and doggedness are sometimes separated by a fine line of gossamer—that strength isn’t that far removed from weakness.
In the story of Job, one of Job’s friends tells him that he must have done something to deserve all the calamities that have taken away almost everything he holds dear. Speaking of those who have forgotten God and implying that Job must be among them, he tells Job, “Their confidence is gossamer, a spider’s house their trust.”
Interestingly, later in the story, God reprimands Job’s friends, telling them, “…you have not spoken of me what is right.”
Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to have faith in a spider’s silken web. One could do worse than trusting the work of spiders. They rid us of insects that plague us. They weave webs that protect their own from dangerous enemies.
Yes, faith is gossamer. But gossamer can be surprisingly strong.
Tell me your stories of silken strength.