In response to Robert Sheldon’s “Christmas Tree Dilemma” article last week, a friend wrote in with a great story from their Christmas this year. Seems the whole “picking of the perfect tree” tradition is alive and well in her family as well, though this year it came with a surprising twist.
After finding the World’s Most Perfect Christmas Tree, she and her family set the tree up in the living room and proceeded to celebrate a wonderful holiday around a most perfect tree. All went to bed on Christmas night with smiles on their faces, wonder in their heart, and warm feasts settled nicely in their belly. Little did they know that somewhere in the warmth of their tree lay the egg sack a spider left there last fall, lulled by the indoor glow into the illusion that it was time now for tiny little spiders to think about bursting forth into the world.
Next morning, the family began to move around the house still warm in the after-Christmas glow. The teenage daughter gasped as she approached the World’s Most Perfect Christmas Tree, and found it alive with tiny little spiders. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands of them.
Following a flurry of activity, the World’s Most Perfect Christmas Tree found its way rapidly out of the house and into the front yard. The version of the story I heard didn’t include casualty figures, but I suspect the vast majority of the tiny little arachnids met their untimely end in the frigid cold outside or beneath someone’s shoe in the living room.
But surely a few survived…
Hearing the story made me think a bit about my “arachnophobia”. I don’t imagine it’s actually a true “phobia”, but a simple (if irrational) fear. As my kids were growing up, my wife delighted in helping them catch black jumping spiders, which she had convinced them were “Dad’s favorite spider”. Of course, the jumpers are particularly terrifying to me, as they move so fast and are so incredibly ugly. I, of course, didn’t want to pass my fear on to my children, so I played along with the game, pretending I actually did love those horrifying little creatures.
Amazingly, I do think playing along with the game made me a little more tolerant of spiders. They still scare me, and my first reaction is always to smash ‘em, but I do think the terror has subsided over the years. Did that happen as part of the normal process of maturing past irrationality, and/or was the game my wife played part of the cure?
Often, when we shine a bit of light on a fear, and bring it into sharper focus, we’re able to deal more effectively with the irrationality that might surround the fear. The heart of the fear will still remain, but a bit of that ugly film of irrationality might get burned away by the light.
During this wonderful season, when so many different traditions are focused on light, and the return of light, I’m reminded of how much we all need this time of returning light in our lives. The glare of new light makes it hard to sustain the irrationality that often stokes fears. May we each bask in the Light we need renewed in our lives this season, and move with newfound confidence and hope into the New Year.
And may the spiders please stay away…