Suspended in air, hovering below the projector was a huge black spider- the kind that made our hearts beat a little faster and caused a mass exodus of 1st graders from the middle of the carpet. It looked fierce and hell bent on our destruction.
One fearless 1st grader stood up to swat at our unwelcome guest, but in that moment a voice piped up from the back of the carpet, “Stop! I just watched a movie about a spider who was really kind even though she looked scary. Her name is Charlotte and she can be our pet.”
It was fascinating to watch the mood shift in that moment. Instead of running away, six year olds were leaning in close. The spider’s spindly black legs looked charming instead of gruesome as she skillfully spun a web across the projector screen. Her multiple eyes didn’t look threatening once we called her friend. We began to brainstorm aloud things spiders do to help us- eat mosquitos so we don’t get bug bites, make beautiful webs for us to look at, teach us about grit as they work relentlessly. Seeing our spider through a different lens, giving her a name and recognizing the ways she was for our good, and not our harm- changed things.
Charlotte the spider continued to hang out in our projector for the rest of the afternoon- but each time she made a daring swoop down, it was met with cheers instead of fear, excitement to see what she would do next, rather than running away. It changed the way we interacted with arachnids at recess too. A spider hanging over the slide received the label of Charlotte’s cousin and was fiercely protected when an unsuspecting second grader tried to knock her web down. One morning Ramone declared that “Charlie the Web” made a voyage across the school and visited kindergarten too. When a spider scuttled out from a reading chair in the library, the 1st grader sitting in the chair leaned over to show it the pictures from the book she was reading, instead of trying to smash it. The very thing that made our hearts tremble and evoked prickles of cold sweat, was now sparking joy and bringing delight.
This shift kept playing on repeat in the back of my brain. How many times do I only see the scary and the hard in things I don’t fully understand? How many times do I respond in fear by backing away instead of leaning in close to see the good that is directly in my line of sight? God has been teaching me a lot about my fears. The ways that I’m quick to assume that the murky unknown He asks me to step into should be swatted away like an annoying insect. The ways that I’m quick to believe that being comfortable and cozy is paramount to growing and becoming more like Jesus. When I name my fears, remind myself of the ways they are for my good, the ways they’re shaping and forming me, and welcome them instead of trying to smash them, I take a teeny step closer to the heart of the story God has for me. It’s a truth I get to remember every time I see a Charlotte spinning a web.