The Spider

During these last six months I have surprised myself. I have watched insects and looked at flowers and other plants more closely than ever before. I allowed a beautiful green beetle to crawl up my arm, I watched ants eating aphids and counted butterflies for 15 minutes for the butterfly count. I gave sugary water to a bumble bee and watched it recover and fly away and I’ve learnt to be fascinated by mason bees and mining bees. But there is still one thing that I cannot accept, that I cannot look at and wonder, that I could never allow to walk on my hand.

The spider.

A few days ago I came downstairs in the morning humming to myself, feeling bright and happy. I opened the blinds on the dining room window and stepped back all humming forgotten. My heart began to race and I was about to run away when I realised that the spider was outside. I couldn’t look at it but at least I could ignore it.

I’m not alone in this. Recently on the self-isolating bird club Facebook page people have been posting pictures of spiders. There was an outcry from many members who, like me, shiver and have to turn away even at a photograph. It didn’t matter that the photographer of one picture talked about how useful it is to have spiders in the house as they eat moths, flies, fleas and all sorts of other things that are not welcome in the home. I was pleased that spiders are food for birds but that was it. It made no difference that he told us of his spider phobia and hypnosis treatment; the photo was a spider and to many of us, it just wasn’t what we wanted to see. I was surprised at the depth of feeling from both sides of the argument, and that is what it became.

I was talking to a friend who is also a member of the self-isolating bird club a couple of days later and she mentioned that there seemed to be more spider photos than ever since people asked for them to stop and suddenly a memory came to mind of when we were having a meal together in my home, many years ago now. As we sat and chatted with coffee after eating my friend suddenly said “Oh look at that. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a spider that big.” I looked, froze and then hit it, hard with my slipper. My friend was horrified. As we talked about this she asked “Don’t you think it’s a touch hypocritical to be signing petitions to save birds of prey, bees, trees, and all the other wildlife you love yet you still squash spiders?”

The next time we spoke there had been a post of a bee infested by mites found by a member wanting to know how to save the bee. My thought was simply to put the bee, which was obviously very unwell, out of its misery. My friend remarked that surely even mites, as God’s creatures, have a right to life.

My friend isn’t a woman of faith and doesn’t believe in God and so I wondered if this was a challenge. Do I have the right to fight to save one of God’s creatures while killing others? What makes otters and pine martins of more value than spiders?

Genesis 1:24-25 says God created the animals, from the beasts of the earth to the creeping insects. What’s more, He declared their creation to be good!

In Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus taught about His Father’s concern for humans. In this passage, Jesus helped his listeners grasp the extent of God’s concern for them: If God cares about the death of a common bird, a sparrow, he certainly cares about the needs of humans. But in this passage Jesus also gave us insight into God’s attitude toward animals. True, humans are “more valuable” than a common little bird, but Jesus didn’t say that animals have no value to God. In comparison to humans, the little sparrow has little value, but God still values the life of that little sparrow enough to be moved by its death.

It isn’t just that God notices the sparrow’s death, like one might notice that the wind is blowing. Jesus wanted his listeners to understand that God cares about what happens to it; he just cares more about what happens to people.

So, am I going to change towards spiders?

Jane