She could hear giggles from the little kids’ room. They weren’t asleep yet. “Matthew, Mandy…”she warned as she opened their door and flipped on the light. She took several steps into the room—and screamed! There, almost beneath her foot, was a HUGE, hairy tarantula, as big as her hand, crawling across her children’s bedroom floor!
As Laurie told me about it on the phone the next day, my skin was crawling! I shuddered. I had just spent a week sleeping in that room a month ago! And to think of my precious grandchildren sleeping like little angels as monstrous creatures scurried across their innocent little bodies, sinking hideous fangs into their tender flesh—it was a nightmare that seemed all too possible! I was freaking out just thinking about it!
That particular tarantula was only the latest that had come to call in the few weeks the Naranjos had lived in their new house. Melissa had encountered one in her shower, and another in her bedroom the week before. Laurie found one crawling across the schoolroom floor shortly after they’d moved in, and Sara and Gabi have found at least two up on the third floor with them. We stood outside one night as we returned home and watched a tarantula on the exterior wall near a third floor window. The younger kids told me that they were a little scared of the tarantulas in their lawn—as well as the leeches. They have had run-ins with tarantulas in each of the other houses they have lived in, as well, although nothing to the extent they are having now.
Well, that is just part of life in Ecuador, I suppose. At least they don’t live in the Amazon jungle. Oh, wait—the Amazon jungle is exactly where Laurie had her first encounter with a tarantula. She had gone to Ecuador on a year-long missions work/study program (Arriba) as a college sophomore. As part of that program, they took a trip into the jungle, staying in a “hotel” that consisted of a roof, an elevated floor—and no walls. Of course there was no bathroom, either—just an outhouse. Darkness fell quickly in the equatorial jungle. As Laurie, armed only with a flashlight, headed down the concrete stairs with another girl to the outhouse in the black, creepy jungle, they discovered to their dismay (maybe terror is a better word) a tarantula headed up the stairs, straight at them! I can’t recall if they ever made it to the outhouse that night, but I do remember they had to crawl into sleeping bags on the floor—and hope and pray nothing creepy crawled in with them!
Her next arach-attack wasn’t much better. It happened in the little apartment the girls on Arriba shared. They were decorating for Christmas. Laurie had removed a picture from the wall when one of the other girls suddenly froze and told Laurie, “There’s a tarantula on the back of the picture you’re holding!” Arach-attack, heart attack—same difference!
I did some research about tarantulas this week after hearing about these scary hairy critters in my grandchildren’s bedrooms. Are they prone to bite, and is their bite poisonous? Should I worry about them? Do I ever want to return to Ecuador again? (Silly question! No humongous, hairy-legged, fearsome-fanged, creepy, crawly creature is going to stand between me and my grandchildren!)
It boils down to: no, I probably don’t need to worry too much. It seems the tarantulas in Ecuador are not deadly, and most of them are not aggressive, either, although I wouldn’t want to run into the Goliath bird-eater, which can grow up to 12 inches in diameter, has 1 inch fangs and eats birds, rodents and reptiles—and yes, is very aggressive toward humans. Fortunately, it lives in swampy areas and never moves more than a few feet from its burrow. Another aggressive species, the Ecuadorian brown velvet lives on the floor of the rainforest, grows up to 8 inches and can live up to 15 years. Since the Naranjos live in the mountains, they are not likely to run into a nasty variety of tarantula, and as long as they don’t stick a hand into a tarantula’s burrow or corner it, they’re not likely to get bit—and if they did, it probably wouldn’t hurt any more than a bee sting.
Ok, so maybe I don’t need to have nightmares about my grandchildren being attacked by giant tarantulas, but I know if I lived in that house my eyes would be scanning every wall, ceiling and floor when I walked into a room, and if I were Laurie, I’d be checking under the sheets before I put my children to bed and then looking in on them at least once or twice a night—just to be sure. Laurie said she was so glad she had gone back into the kids’ room that night! Even so, I think I might have a hard time getting to sleep at night, wondering if big buggy eyes were looking at me, or if any minute I would feel hairy legs crawling up my hairless legs!
Worry can be like that—the tarantula in the room. It may not show itself most of the time, but it’s often hidden in the recesses of our minds, waiting to scurry through when we least expect it. As just the thought of one of those scary hairy creepy crawlies can set me on edge, have me checking corners and under the bed, and lying awake at night, so can worry rob me of not only sleep, but joy, peace, faith and even my physical well-being. How do we rid ourselves of the tarantulas of worry?
Jesus is the Great Exterminator (okay, that’s a paraphrase.) He has the solutions to our worries and fears. Creepy crawlies keeping you up at night? When it is a worry about financial matters He reminds us to “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7) He has provided in the past; He will do so again. When we are anxious over some matter, He says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a) His answer will come. When we are burdened with care He tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29) When we are fearful—that tarantula is a Goliath bird-eater—His Word tells us, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Proverbs 3:24 says that when we trust in Him, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”
Worry can sneak up on us in the night—or any time at all. It steals our joy. The apostle Paul had plenty to worry about. He wrote the book of Philippians while he was being held prisoner by Nero the Emperor of Rome. He was chained to a guard and not allowed to preach in public. He had no idea what was going to happen to him. He might be acquitted, but then again he might be beheaded! Even some of the believers at that time were against him. In spite of the danger and discomfort in which he found himself, Paul overflowed with joy. Nineteen times he mentioned the words joy, rejoicing or gladness in this epistle. The source of his joy can be found in the Gospel of Christ. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) He refused to worry because his joy was in the Lord.
We often let worry cheat us of peace, as well as joy. The fourth chapter of Philippians goes on to give us the antidote for worry and the source for peace: “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) Prayer and the attitude or mind-set of praise and thanksgiving can wipe out worry.
When we are prone to worry, we are weak on faith. Whatever our need, God will provide when we trust in Him. One of the names of God, Jehovah Jireh, means “The Lord will provide.” We find that name in Genesis 22, in the account of Abraham and Isaac. God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and in obedience and faith they went up on the mountain where God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac. The name Jehovah Jireh does not mean “The LORD did provide,” but “The LORD will provide.” We can trust that it does not apply to only past events, but also to future ones! In Philippians 4:13 we see He gives us strength to trust, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” And again in Philippians 4 we see His provision in verse 19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we trust in Him, when we have His strength and peace and provision, why worry?
Sweep the corners for the tarantula of worry. Sweep it right out—crush it if you have to! There’s no reason to fear the creepy crawlies by night or the scary critters waiting to jump out at you any moment. The joy of the Lord, His strength, peace, and faith in Him will exterminate those pests!