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Sarah Torbeck examines the effects of God’s grace on irrational fears. 

I am arachnophobic.  

This is an immutable fact, and I make no apologies for my feelings regarding spiders. In fact, before I began writing this piece, I decided that there would be no images of spiders within the finished article (unless my esteemed editor decides otherwise).  

I cannot tell you when I began to fear spiders, but it seems to me that I spent many nights as a child, cowering under my covers—utterly paralyzed with fear at the thought of the monsters that lived under my bed. I was convinced that those monsters were actually five-foot-wide spiders with luminous green eyes. It was only through steely courage, and desperate child-like prayers that I managed to keep those spider-monsters under my bed … barely. 

By the time I was an adult, my arachnophobia was on full display. The very sight of a tiny wolf spider sent me into spasms of unmitigated horror. The back of my neck would tingle, and I would begin screaming for my husband. He always appeared (way too slowly in my opinion), with one hand on his hip, while rolling his eyes at my histrionics.  

“Steve!!” I would scream. “Come kill this spider!” Then I would indulge my need to hyperventilate while pointing to the corner where the monster was hiding.  

“Poor little spider,” Steve would say.  

But I was unmoved. “Kill it! Spiders must die!” I would shriek, as I watched Steve obediently dispatch the spider, and throw it away in a folded paper towel (I didn’t want to be forced to confront the carnage). Then he would return to mowing the lawn or slaying other dragons, while I collected myself on the couch with a case of the vapors, because … spiders must die.  

It’s funny how a simple afternoon can change everything.  




It was late when I drove to the end of my road to pick up my mail. I began tugging on the mailbox door, when I suddenly noticed a very large spider suspended between two mailboxes. She was big, and ugly! And dear heaven, I wanted her dead! I immediately broke out into a sweat, and furtively looked around for deliverance. My husband was no longer on this earth, so there was no one to slay this dragon. The familiar feeling of panic began to creep into my spine. 

“Shoo,” I yelped. Go away!” I waved an envelope at her, but she didn’t move. In fact, she seemed almost frozen to a singular place on her web. I shuddered, and made a hasty retreat.  

The spider had won the day. 

It would be two more days before I returned to my mailbox. As I pulled up to the familiar spot, I nervously looked for the spider, but she was nowhere to be seen. Relief flooded my senses, and I recovered my mail without incident. Thank you, Jesus! I prayed silently.  

I placed my mail on the dashboard, and started to roll up the window, when something feathery caught my eye. I peered out of my car window and looked for the source. It was a filmy, white web caught on the edge of the mailbox post, gently floating in the breeze. I recognized it as the spider’s web.  

But where was the spider? I inspected her web. It looked a little shabby—almost like it had been abandoned. I leaned closer to the web, and tried to understand what I was seeing. I finally detected a small, white ball in the corner—where the spider had been situated; it was meticulously covered with thin, gossamer silk. I had read somewhere that spiders lay their eggs just before dying, and I realized in that instant, that the spider I had encountered just two days earlier was not planning to make me her next meal. 

She was dying.  

I was suddenly and inexplicably filled with sorrow. Even now, I do not understand this—but later that evening, I found myself thinking about my irrational fears, and the chilling effect they have on perception, and the decisions we make based on those perceptions.  

The spider, one of God’s more insignificant and even despised creatures, is here by design … wrought from the mind of our omnipotent Creator for purposes that are evident as well as mysterious. 




Intrigued, I decided to look up spiders in my Catholic commentary. To my everlasting wonder I discovered that there is a Patron Saint of Spiders. At first, I thought the saint’s patronage must be for the eradication of spiders—but I was wrong. Apparently, God dispatched a group of spiders to spin a web over a doorway, so that St. Felix was successfully hidden from his persecutors.  

Clearly, I had misjudged the enigmatic spider.  


The spider, one of God’s more insignificant and even despised creatures, is here by design … wrought from the mind of our Creator for purposes that are evident as well as mysterious. #CatholicMom


I do not wish to imply that I have become a spider convert.  


But I have come to recognize the power of fear, and its debilitating effect on the human psyche.  

Surely, God knew all of this when He created the world and everything in it; which is why He offers Himself as our shield and protector against every threat because He wants us to seek Him when we are afraid … or at the very least—when we see a spider. 



Copyright 2023 Sarah Torbeck
Images: Canva