My wife and I are at the lake. We enjoy the lake and find it quite relaxing. As a matter of fact we have a place that we get away to on a regular basis. Like most lake places – it has a nemesis – spider webs. We are constantly swatting down or walking into spider webs. I don’t know what it is about the lake climate but spiders proliferate here.
While having coffee this morning I asked my wife what she felt was important to do today. She said – “spider webs.” “There are too many spider webs around here. We’ve got to get rid of them.”
Remembering a story, she quickly continued. “Oh,” she said, “spider webs remind me of a story I recently heard.” She said that she recently read a devotional passage about a pastor who continued to have a parishioner asking for prayer. The parishioner wanted the pastor to pray for help with the “spider webs” of their life. I’ll let you create your own analogies to the visual. Soon the parishioner returned to the pastor with the same request – pray for me – pray that I am able to cope with the “spider webs.” Not too much later, the parishioner returned again with the same request. The pastor was getting a little fed up with the redundant request but then had an epiphany. Upon the parishioner’s next visit (and request) the pastor advised – “Rather than focusing on the ‘webs’ maybe our prayers should be on the discovery and elimination of the ‘spiders’ that are causing these webs.”
As my wife shared that story I had my own epiphany. In my work I notice a lot of focus on “web” elimination. The amount of time, energy and resources that go into grumbling about the current number of webs is quite significant in my opinion. Often the assumption is that the webs are the center of the issue. Just throw a little money at them or ignore them and maybe they will go away.
Like the parishioner in the story – I wonder if our preoccupation with the webs around us can often have us unproductively engrossed with the byproducts and not the causes of the issues that entangle us.
But why? Why would we allow ourselves to be so preoccupied with something that isn’t the source of our problem?
Here are a few thoughts…
- Dealing with spiders is different work. We know how to deal with webs – but spiders?
- Taking down webs gives us immediate satisfaction – “Look what we did!”
- Spiders can be elusive. They are often not readily visible. Therefore, they do not present as the pressing issue. As a result – we just focus on the webs.
- Spiders are scary. Nobody wants to tangle with a spider. Just leave them alone and maybe they’ll go away.
So – if the webs of our organizations, communities and lives are caused by the spiders – and all (and more) of the things mentioned above are keeping us from the work of eliminating spiders – what are we to do?
- Get more curious. What’s the spider behind this reoccurring web? What’s my work in dealing with it?
- Confront your fears. What’s the worst that could happen? Nobody wants to get bitten. So – how do I take the needed precautions – but not shy away from dealing with the spider?
- No matter how good you think you are at web elimination – get fed up with it. Until we declare web elimination as unproductive it’s very hard to get motivated to take on the spiders.
- Stop declaring the webs as the enemy. They are merely clues as to where the spider is. Let them help you.
- Finally – ask yourself – am I the spider? Is it possible that I’m part of the problem? What’s needed for me to change my web making ways?
As much as I’d like to end this post with a pretty message to let you know that everything is going to be okay – I’m not. Webs can be extremely menacing and seductive. The work of changing our focus will take real work and potentially a new worldview. But if we will do that work not only will the webs take a holiday – but so will the spiders.