Columnists > Voices

Walking on air

The world can't see it, but the web beneath a Christian is stronger than steel

Issue: "Meltdown," April 22, 2006

She was busy all summer, constructing a web on the north window upstairs. Unless the sun was at exactly the right angle to gleam the gossamer threads, her structure was practically invisible and her actions mystifying. All we could see, glancing out the window, was a round body with mechanical legs, dropping, ratcheting up, running to and fro on what appeared to be thin air.

She made at least four support lines from the center of the web and cemented them to directional points on the vinyl frame. To find those anchorings, she flung herself out into space. I'd like to know how she located those points-was it blind groping or some sort of instinct that led her unerringly home?

The support lines were of a different type of silk, not sticky like the webbing she used to catch her prey, but stronger than an equal width of steel, and almost always invisible. All I could see, while she built her framework and shuttled between the strands trailing a wisp of silk, was a small busy body clicking its way along lines drawn in space.

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Except on certain misty mornings. Then, a single beam from the rising sun angled through the clouds and captured the entire structure, each line strung with silvery dewdrops. It was a sight that provoked involuntary gasps. It was an opportunity to see, as Jonathan Edwards also saw in a spider's work, the "exuberant goodness of God."

Faith is like that-the assurance of hope, the substance of the unseen. By faith Christians do things that make no sense to the world: from the simple and straightforward, like tithing on income, to the complex and tenuous, like refusing to despair when evil days come. I have been young and now I'm respectably middle-aged, yet I've never seen the righteous forsaken-though to the world they may appear to lose their jobs, fail at their ambitions, struggle with their relationships as much as anyone else.

I know a family that prayed for years-years-for blessings that never seemed to come, while troubles only increased. Then in the space of about 18 months they saw all their present needs provided, one by one. Those prayers that sometimes seemed fruitless were provision in themselves, the support lines cast out into space that found a sure anchor. What looked to the world like random scurrying was in fact a platform to hold the silky lines spun out in wider and wider circles, to catch the blessings that would surely fall.

It didn't seem like much-just the ability to keep believing enough to ask-but in the end, those prayers were everything.

I have seen my own prayers answered in ways and at times I never expected. My faith began as a tremulous thing, a wafting thread that sometimes broke, sometimes wavered. But the years have furnished those anchor points, those times when the Lord graciously invited my testing and even more graciously proved true and firm. Enough that my faith has become less mine and more His-and all the more reliable for that, of course. After all this time, through all these perplexing troubles, the web became denser, stronger, more beautiful. And, to the world, invisible.

Are we not spiders, casting out lines no one can see except when the light is right (in prayer, in worship)? The observer may see death-defying leaps into nothingness, but we've bound our lines to the anchor-post and know that it's real. As the web grows and develops its spiraling connections, we may appear to be more or less insane, launching out with judgments that appear to be based on nothing, traveling resolutely on air.

But one day the world will take a morning walk, and in the rising sun, it will stumble upon a universe of elegant web, strung with dewdrops. The support lines, infinitely stronger than steel, will spoke outward in all directions, revealing their anchorage to be the encircling Word, the Alpha and Omega, the end firmly joined to the beginning. Then the world will gasp, "Ah!" and fall to its knees in awe and terror.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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