So I’m driving.
Heading home on my hour and a half commute from a night class, I’m alone in my car, tired, and jamming out to some random hip hop station, ready to be home. I was about thirty minutes into the drive when I see the first one.
A big brown spider.
You know the type. Not big enough to really call it “huge” but definitely NOT small either. Probably a brown recluse. Probably.
Anyway… it came out of the passenger side of the dashboard and slowly, methodically leg by leg by leg by leg by leg by leg by leg by leg started making its way toward me.
I’m sure this isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone, but I happen to have a moderate case of arachnophobia (the moment I see a spider my toes curl up, my heart rockets, and my armpits have some sort of weird physiological response and begin inexplicably burning).
So there I am. Burning with fear, as the spider moseys toward me. I begin praying, eyes on the road, on the spider, on the road, on the spider, while leaning, leaning down, grabbing my flip flop and gripping it with my right hand, attempting to keep it below the steering wheel, out of glimpse of one of the many spider eyeballs locked in on its panicked target.
Shaking with fear, I begin coaching myself: You can do this. Lord, HELP ME do this.
And then the timing… Leg by leg by leg by leg by…WHAM! Spider goes down! Yes! Success! I look at the menacing carcass glued to my dashboard, crank up the music, and my toes begin to unfurl.
Just about the time the burning in my armpits starts to subside, the other spider appears. Again, out of the dash. Same kind, same cocky saunter.
I take out my flip flop, use the same technique as before, only this time… when I bring my weapon back… NO SPIDER. No spider on the shoe, no carcass on the dash.
Spider is gone. And I have NO IDEA where it is. But I know one thing: it’s in the car.
Panic really sets in… when suddenly spider #3 comes out of the radio. Now, I’m not sure that it came out of the radio exactly (because I don’t know how that happens exactly), all I know is that a new spider (same make and model as before) begins inching leg by leg by leg… up my radio.
Okay. I am in full-on terror. Shaking, gripping the steering wheel, I’m trying to figure out how to get help in my spider-infested car. I am a true damsel in distress. I pull off the road to an empty parking lot, get out of the car… and cry. Not one of those pitiful cries… one of those screaming cries. It’s about 10:00 and all the lights at the all the surrounding houses are out. I’m locked in on the 3rd spider (who is still grabbing his way up and is now on the dash) and I have no idea what to do.
Oh, and there is no cell service. Of course.
But really? Even in my panic, I knew good and well that calling someone would do no good because no one could really help me anyway. It had to be me. I’m all alone in the dark on a scary curvy road. It’s late at night and I CANNOT get back into that car.
But the only way to get home… is to get back into that car.
I take stock of the situation: one spider is dead, one has escaped, and one is smirking at me, taking over my dashboard. I’ve got one shot. I grab my flip flop… pray… and go for the kill.
BAM! Miss. Spider? Gone.
Now there are two spiders in my car. Just… somewhere. Probably smokin’ cigars, crouching around a map with the other ten spiders they’re going to release once I get BACK INTO THE CAR.
I’m shaking (my pits are inflamed by now), standing alone outside my car in complete darkness, and thoughts of boogeymen start to enter in. So after lots of prayers and expletives (sometimes intermingled), I did the only thing I could do: I got back in the car.
That story happened about ten years ago. But it has always stuck with me. And lately I’ve found myself thinking more and more about it:
How there are some spiders in life we can squish. We can stomp them out; it just takes the courage to do it. And, yes, those times are hard. Those times define us and mark us when we overcome obstacles or fears. Those are the “trophy moments.”
Sometimes we have to just get back in the car and trust we’ll get to our destination. Sometimes we have to do the very thing we absolutely don’t want to do.
And I’m finding those moments are where the real Good resides.
They may not be as sexy as the “trophy moments.” Outcomes are uncertain. You may lose it all. Your dreams may come shattering to the floor. Reality might turn out to be a façade. The path may take a sharp turn. The bad guy might win.
And still… you grit your teeth, clench your fists and take your shaking knees one after the other and get back into the car. Because you know you have to…
Standing outside the car that night, I knew it was a defining moment. But I had no idea then all the different ways that moment would define my life…