Friday, August 30, 2013

Revelation: A Spider’s Web

There are always cool things to learn if we are open to learning.  And some of the stuff I learn, I am not quite sure what I will do with it.  Just this weekend I read an interesting article in the local newspaper about spiders.  I am neutral on spiders.  They are interesting creatures.  I am not scared of them.  They don’t bother me, but before reading the article I was not particularly fascinated by them either.

But now I am intrigued.  The title of the article is catchy: “Unraveling a spider’s secret miracle fiber.”  I think any time someone uses the word, “miracle,” intrigue is built into it.  And then you add the qualifier, “secret!”  Who can resist a “secret miracle?”

The article gets to the point when it describes the silk woven by the spider.  We read that “Spider silk is nature’s miracle fiber.  It’s ultra-strong, versatile, durable, replenishable, even edible.  Spiders can churn out 100 yards a day.”  “Wow,” I think, “100 yards!”  “And they can eat it!” I’m hooked on spiders now.  How many times I have seen spiders’ webs and paid little or no attention.  It is easy to think about all those times when I was a boy on that Indiana farm and saw numerous spider webs all around the barns.  I remember seeing that various things---bugs, flies, etc.---had been caught in the web.  I wondered how they got caught.

Now I realize the web is such that the bug which is caught has no option.  That bug is stuck.  This web-stuff is strong.  Now I realize, according to the article, that spiders “can coat it with glue to snare prey…”  No wonder things get stuck in it.  A flying insect just “hit glue.” 

The article is actually about scientists at the University of Akron who are trying to figure out how the spiders do it so humans can replicate it. The article goes into the evolution of spiders and other such detail that leaves my head spinning.  And I thought they were just bugs!  But maybe these bugs are sources of revelation.

Clearly, they are revealers to the scientists.  Through study the scientists hope to uncover the “secret miracle.”  Then something hits me.  Perhaps not all revelations come to humans while we are just sitting around waiting for the revelation to drop like manna from heaven.  Maybe some revelation happens through human effort.  Perhaps some revelations come by virtue of my discipline and even dogged determination. 

I know the word, “revelation,” or its verb, “reveal,” means to make something known, make something visible, to disclose something.  In the religious context it normally means God is doing something so that we or all of humanity can now “see” something or “understand” something.  But it does not necessarily mean that we take a seat and tell God: “ok, I am ready for another dose of revelation.” 

Perhaps it is more like the spider and the scientist.  Who would think God would use spiders to reveal something of nature’s splendor, creativity, and possibilities?  And perhaps the spiritual journey to revelation is like the scientist.  We have to seek, be disciplined, and open to revelation’s surprises. 

Thanks be to God for this lesson in humility.  If I become too smug, let me then spin a web!  But I do have webs…webs of friends, for instance.  I think I will stand by for the spider to teach me more.  You, too?

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