Big Ugly Spider

When I was a kid, I lived in a house with a big ugly spider outside the front door. We had a front verandah with a few concrete steps leading up to it. In front of these concrete steps was a lovely tree.

Big Ugly Spider set up permanent residence in a web stretching high between the tree and the verandah.

This meant Big Ugly Spider was effectively hanging over us when we went up the steps to the front door each day. I clearly remember ducking my head every single day, scooting under the web of mass destruction, feverishly praying Big Ugly Spider would not decide to drop on me today.

I am trying to remember what kind of spider it was. I think it might have been an orb weaver. I cannot be sure. But it was huge. And black. And scary. (Aren’t you glad I did not post a photo of the spider?)

Imagine what that was like for a little kid.

I do not mean to be melodramatic, but I felt I was taking my life into my hands every time I dashed under Big Ugly Spider’s web.

I was taking my life into my hands every time I dashed under Big Ugly Spider’s web.

And he lives on, vivid in my memory.

Living with chronic illness is a lot like living with Big Ugly Spider. Every day, it is perched just outside my front door. I know it is there, waiting for me. Every day, I duck and run, hoping it will not drop straight onto my head. Every day, I dash under it, hoping to outrun it.

Every day, it sits there waiting, menacing in its spideriness, relishing its powerful position, yet seemingly innocent in apparent inactivity.

Every day, I dismiss from my mind the horrifying image of Big Ugly Spider dropping down the back of my neck and running around under my clothes. I avoid thinking about the possibility of being bitten by Big Ugly fangs. And I definitely do not ruminate about being eaten alive by it.

Living with chronic illness is a lot like living with Big Ugly Spider.

Chronic Illness is always present to some degree. Like a Big Ugly Spider, it hangs there in the shadows of my life, waiting for an opportune moment to strike.

Even though I know Big Ugly Spider is unlikely to drop on my head at the precise moment I am passing underneath, it is still possible. So it is with illness. It preys on my mind. The possibility of pain – of things getting worse – of bad news – is always there.

Of course, as a Christian, I do not worry. (That was sarcasm.)

Ok, I worry. I worry about what the illness will do next. I worry about my capacity to cope. I worry about illness lying in wait for me, like a spider’s ambush, waiting to catch me in its web of pain and inflammation and degeneration.

Thankfully, I am not alone. (And I do not mean Big Ugly Spider.) God is here. God is in the waiting. God is in every bated breath, every quickened heartbeat, every worried thought, every harassed nerve. When I duck and run, praying in my dire need, God is with me.

God is with me.

Somehow, we will get through this together.

Do you, or does someone you love, live with chronic illness? How do you deal with your Big Ugly Spider? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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