Do you like spiders? David asked as we were checking out of the lodge he manages near Kruger National Park where we had spent two wonderful days seeing the wildlife. David asked in a friendly tone, as if he were just curious. No pressure.
But I was ready with my answer because James, one of the great guides who had taken us on safari in the park, had told us that he has some pet spiders. He showed us pictures of some of his favorites, brightly colored with blues, purples, and reds. One of them has delicate pink feet. James spoke about them with a mix of affection, wonder, and respect. It wasn’t frightening to look at his pictures and hear him explain some of the differences between New World tarantulas, where his come from (North and South America) and Old World tarantulas (including Africa). When threatened, New World tarantulas use their urticating hairs, which work like stinging nettles. Some of them can even eject their hairs toward what threatens them. Old World tarantulas bite. James told us about his largest spider, Scarlet, and indicated her size using both hands.
So when David asked nonchalantly if we like spiders, I told him I was trying to overcome my fear of them, and that I had made a lot of progress. He then asked if we wanted to meet Scarlet or even hold her. I said I wasn’t ready to hold her, but I explained that one of the suggestions I had read was to ask a friend who had a spider to let me see the friend hold the spider. This had seemed like a great idea, but who do I know who has a pet spider? (To any friends who have pet spiders, thank you for not telling me about this aspect of your life earlier).
David removed Scarlet from her terrarium and let her walk around on his hands, then set her down on the desk. She walked slowly, gently, like she was just exploring. We watched her for a while and then David asked if Joe wanted to hold her.
Love is not a feeling. It is an act of the will. Love is lived in verbs, not adjectives. Over and over again in the Bible we see this. 1 Corinthians 13, the big love chapter you often hear at weddings, is full of adjectives in English (love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude). In Greek (the language it was originally written in), it’s crammed with verbs. It’s more like love does patience, acts with kindness, doesn’t envy or boast . . . ).
So here is my wonderful, loving husband. I can see him responding to the offer to hold Scarlet and what I’m watching is him deciding to say yes because it will help me. If I see this spider in the hands of my beloved, and both of them safe, it will help me feel safe too. So although Joe is not crazy about spiders, Joe says yes. I watch as David and Joe extend their hands toward each other and Scarlet crosses their hand bridge and then rests in Joe’s palms. Everyone is okay, including Scarlet and me.
Here are two pictures in case you’re curious.
At first glance, you might think these are pictures of an enormous spider. But really they are pictures of love.