I was certain that the spider was mocking me. It was a minion sent straight from the bowels of hell no doubt. Sitting in the grass of my church’s outdoor amphitheater that sunny Sunday morning, I was living a nightmare. You see, I am seriously phobic. I was born cursed with a hyper-sensitive ‘spidey sense’ and can spot the little demons a mile away. My senses that morning weren’t just tingling, they were screaming like a symphony of air raid sirens.
The beasts were EVERYWHERE. They were black—not so much a color as an utter absence of light. EVIL. And fast. I casually waved my bulletin at the closest one, hoping to scare it away without distracting the faithful who were listening to the day’s teaching blissfully unaware of my dilemma. It feinted left and darted toward me once more before veering away.
I sat there looking at my pastor’s lips moving but not hearing any words. My heart was beginning to pound and I felt light-headed. I knew that doing the heebie-jeebie dance in the middle of a sermon would be very poor form, so I continued to vainly wave my pitiful paper weapon and pray. That is assuming that ‘help me, help me, helphelphelp…ahhhhh!’ qualifies as a prayer. I was uncertain as to what I should do. Outwardly I remained calm. Inwardly, I was screaming hysterically.
Then I made the mistake of glancing at the sandaled foot of the man to my right. I watched in horror as one of the little monsters skittered across his bare flesh. It was then that I really and truly lost it. With a look to my husband that spoke volumes only he could read, I nodded, rose and walked away. My Vulcan-like control of my emotions served me well, as I was now experiencing a bona fide panic attack.
I never went back to an amphitheater service. Instead, we would listen to the sermon on the radio from the comfort of our (mostly) spider-free home. It would have been no problem, except that fear has a way of growing, and spreading. I couldn’t get into the shower without first checking behind the shampoo bottle to make sure one wasn’t lurking there waiting to catch me at my most vulnerable. Or under the visor in my car. I was sure that I would wreck and kill us all if a rogue arachnid made its presence known on the road. It was rather embarrassing. And I found myself living a profound truth.
Fear left unchecked will shrink your world bit by bit.
I may have let things slide longer. After all, who of us is actually eager to grab hold of fear and face it head on? But I began to see my own fear reflected in my son. Magnified. We would go door to door selling popcorn for his Boy Scout troop and I would watch him pass up homes that had an abundance of bushes in the yard. Too many places for spiders to hide, he admitted. I saw the panic in his eyes when he would inadvertently come into contact with a web. This bothered me greatly. My own fear was spreading like a disease, infecting my entire family.
I knew that something had to be done. It is one thing to accept cowardice in yourself. It is another thing entirely to pass it on to your children. How could I teach them that God gives us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7) if I was unwilling to live that out?