I am fascinated by insects. Yes, I like them. They are interesting to watch, amazingly varied, and just plain cool. You know the odd thing, though? Add two legs and subtract one body segment, and what does that make an insect?
And they are decidedly not cool.
I cannot explain this.
All I know is, there is family lore about me involving a bathtub, multiple shoes, and one large spider. Also another involving me and a spider on the shower wall and a subsequent non-family-friendly dash through the house, but that is another story…
I do not like spiders. I used to hyperventilate going down the aisle in Petco where I know they are kept. Actually looking in the aquarium would have required an EMT situation.
So what, oh what, could have ever inspired the picture below? (Warning—graphic picture below. No, not of the shower dash. Worse.)
A refusal to give in to fear.
I know I’ve told the tarantula story before, and some of you have read it. But there’s more. We need to know the power of fear to take our identity from us and keep us from moving toward growth.
We fear too many things that steal our identity.
I forced myself to stop in front of the tarantula cage one day and allow that nice young man to put a spider in my hand because I knew my fear would hold me back from being what God wanted me to be. It sounds silly, I know, to say that fear of spiders can get in the way of being used by God. But whenever fear, whatever the fear, controls your choices, it blocks who you were made to be.
In this case, it would control my choice to lead a team to Costa Rica to minister. In the middle of convincing other team members to cast off their fears and go for the trip, I had to face mine or be a hypocrite. After all, they grow some big spiders in Costa Rica. (I never actually saw one in two weeks there. Only a hole where the tour guide told us we could see one if we looked. I did look. I didn’t see.)
The older I get and the more I go through, the more I am adamant—I do not want to give control over to anyone but God. Certainly not an eight-legged critter with a brain the size of…I don’t know…do spiders have brains? Conventional ones? No clue. But I do know they have to be smaller than human brains, based on fundamental laws of physics.
Get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
–Romans 8:14–15, The Message
What do grave tenders do? They make graves neat and lovely. They ensure pretty, clean plots. Over dead things. Past things. Things with no life and no future. I don’t want to be a tender of dead things. I want to live adventurously expectant.
Yet I don’t know many people who wake up every morning asking, “What’s next, God?” (I, personally, don’t do anything in the morning but blindly feel for the hot water and Earl Grey while trying not to trip over hungry cats.)
Most of us don’t start the day feeling like we are created for incredible purpose. Why don’t we expect wonder?
Because we fear. Rather than jump into our days, we dread them. We look at our lists and groan. We plan our next escape. We go on tending to the same dead things every day. We may dread mornings, but at least we know them.
Adventurous expectancy is not known. Stepping into identity as those children of God might mean risk, conflict, change. If my identity is being God’s representative here on earth, the imago dei to my neighbors, family, and total strangers, it’s a whole lot safer to remain a grave tender. No one in a grave ever expected anything hard of me.
Stepping into our identity as His children and taking on whatever that means? That’s a scary unknown. It could involve things I’m not ready to give up, risks not I’m ready to take, changing values and ideas I’m not ready to reexamine.
It could involve holding that spider. And we hyperventilate at the thought.
Sadly, I could not get over fear of spiders by thinking about them. Pondering their purpose. Looking at photos of them. I just had to jump in and face that stupid fear head on. It’s the only thing that works. And it’s in doing that we realize the anticipation was far worse than the actual execution.
We’re more afraid to start than to follow through. So just start.
Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In is fullest definition, “rich and satisfying” means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceedingly, abundantly, supremely, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon, beyond imagination.”
Wow. That’s a whole lot of satisfying.
So the question is: Do we want to observe an extraordinary, uncommon, abundant life—or do we want to participate in one?
God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
Jill Richardson is the pastor of Real Hope Community Church near Chicago. She is the author of six books and a national speaker, as well as a contributor to books from Dayspring, Lillenas, and Christianity Today. Jill’s doctorate in "Church Leadership in a Changing Context" is helping her with her passion—passing on a healthy, creative church and doing it with the next generation. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul), and Washington University. Her focus is on church leadership, creative preaching, immigration and refugees, women’s issues, and intergenerational leadership. She has an unnatural love for Middle-earth, chocolate marzipan, old musicals, fish tacos, oceans, cats, and Earl Grey. She believes in Jesus, grace, restoration, kindness, justice, and the Cubs. You can find her work at jillmrichardson.com.