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Treed by a Spider

September 5th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 3: 13-18 (NLT)

 13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
      the one who gains understanding.
 14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
      and her wages are better than gold.
 15 Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
      nothing you desire can compare with her.
 16 She offers you long life in her right hand,
      and riches and honor in her left.
 17 She will guide you down delightful paths;
      all her ways are satisfying.
 18 Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
      happy are those who hold her tightly.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

As a young boy, I was always outside.  We lived out in the country and seemingly owned a lot of land.  However, driving past our old house as an adult has revealed that our “huge” property was more directly related to my “not so huge” childhood self.  Woods, gardens, chicken coups, and barns created endless possibilities for playtime and I took advantage of each one of them to the fullest extent possible.  

As I amassed an assortment of skills and abilities, tree-climbing became a crucial component of my superhero powers.  I recall that my childlike mind processed the concept of trees as immovable, unshakable towers of permanence.  You could pull on them, shake them, and climb to the tops of their branches; but you could never uproot them.  They were stationary, impenetrable fortresses of playtime bliss.

I remember that my brother and I once spent months gathering various scraps of wood and discarded materials from Dad’s workshop to “build” a treehouse in one of those trees.  We loved the idea of our own place that was secluded from adult society, yet every bit as sturdy as the house that we lived in.  Needless to say, our treehouse project was never the woodland skyscraper that we dreamt of.  However, I sometimes like to think that my personal treehouse building influence is what helped my brother go on to become a brilliant civil engineer.  Eh, who knows?

Back to trees.  One afternoon, I gleefully scaled one of our yard’s trees as I often did.  I had made my way up to the first level of branches and I decided that it might be fun to “hand walk” my way out on a long branch and hang there a while.  As my feet dangled below me, I looked back towards the trunk of the tree and beheld a horrifying sight: a huge spider had planted himself on the end of branch- right at the spot that I needed to get to in order to re-climb back to the trunk.

I was trapped in midair!  I panicked!  I couldn’t climb back to safety and my hands were quickly tiring.  So, I began screaming for help at the top of my lungs.  There I was, suspended hundreds of feet in the air as I desperately clung to dear life by the miniscule nails of my fingers’ edges– a mammoth taranchula diabolically taunting me and threatening me with swift, yet excruciatingly tortuous annihilation.  I wasn’t a dramatic kid at all.

My only hope was the tree and I gripped it as my lifeline.  A neighbor next door heard my death cry and came over to assist.  As he simply reached up and took me off the branch, I began to realize that I may have not been quite as high up as I had originally thought.  Then, looking at the baby spider that had frightened me so much, I realized that I may have overreacted just bit.  

But one thing was certain about my near death experience: the tree held. This passage in Proverbs personifies wisdom, giving it a personality and using the pronouns “she” and “her” to describe the characteristics thereof. Many of the images of verses thirteen through seventeen are ones that we’ve already seen on our journey through the first few chapters of Proverbs.  Wisdom is treasure.  More valuable than gold. Worth more than rubies.  Wisdom shows us the right path and gives us satisfaction.  

These are all incredible descriptions and worthy of deep contemplation, but I am struck by verse eighteen: “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”

Like that little traumatized boy who dangled from that embarrassingly low branch, there are times that the circumstances of life will ambush and leave us hanging on for dear life.  Stress.  Career.  School.  Relationships. Confusion.  Insecurity.  Fear.  Change.  The “spiders” can come out of nowhere with little to no warning.

Moments of distress are the times when many people fall out of the tree and injure themselves.  We are prone to panic and often begin taking actions or embracing attitudes that are detrimental to our life’s well-being. Over the years, I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve helplessly witnessed people make unwise decisions in the moment of their desperation.  Panic and distress don’t make good backdrops for quality actions.

When people ask me what they should do in difficult situations, I humbly refer to the truth of this passage: “embrace the sturdiness of God’s wisdom and hold to it tightly.”  In other words, when you don’t know what to do, do the last thing God told you do and hang on to what’s right until the moment He rescues you.  Don’t try to fight the “huge spider” with your pinky finger and don’t let go of the branch just because you’re weary; hold to wisdom and cry out for God’s help.

When you lose sight of the road, just keep going straight in the direction that God originally pointed you in.  He knows what’s ahead and He’ll let you know when to turn.

God’s wisdom and direction is the Redwood Forest of our existence.  Climb up and hold on because He can’t be cut down and as long as you hold tightly to Him, hitting the ground is not an option.

Oh, and watch out for spiders.




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