Monday, July 15, 2013

The Patience of a Spider

I was sitting on my front porch a few evenings ago when I noticed a spider spinning a web between a curve in my railing. It had only a single strand, and it was slowly making its way toward the top. In all the time I sat there, it made it only about half way.


My wife and I married when I was in still in college, against her father's wishes that we wait until I had graduated. I was working two jobs and going to school full time; she had decided to quit school around the time we got engaged so that she could take a full-time position at a doctor's office, with both of us agreeing that she would return to school once I graduated. Instead, she went back during our first year of marriage and stayed until we had our son. During the course of that first year, we were met with familial problems and health issues for those we loved, and those issues, compounded with the typical difficulties of a new marriage, mainly learning to live with another person, someone new, made our first year of marriage more difficult than I had imagined. Part of me had hoped, maybe even expected, that it would be a blissful, romantic period, rather like something out of a movie, and sure, we had our moments, but it was in no way the bohemian, free-spirited, care-free life I had hoped for. And then we found out after only a few months of marriage that we were expecting our first (and only) child. The pressure mounted.

During our marriage, my wife often acted as the leader and voice of faith, telling me that we could do anything for a year. In a year, I'd finish school. In a year, I'd get a good job. In a year... One year stretched into two, two into three, three into four, until finally, a year ago this month, we decided for the first time to end our marriage. I suppose to say that it was the first time isn't entirely true, for we talked about divorce for three of the four years we were married, only officially splitting up for good last Christmas night. In our hearts and minds, both of us had played out the dissolution of our marriage, who would leave whom, how we'd do it, countless times, even after we reconciled briefly last August, but we never followed through with the decision for one reason or another. Until last winter. But over the course of those years, she'd constantly encourage me that it was only for a year, whatever it happened to be at the time. Financial struggles. Jobs we didn't like. She told me that we could tough out anything for a year. We just needed to be patient and diligent.

I graduated with a degree that I didn't really want, to do a job that I didn't really want to do. I wanted to teach college. I loved the atmosphere, the intellectual stimulation and discussions, the freedom. But I earned a degree to teach middle school students, a demographic I didn't believe I was truly destined to teach. So when I was offered a job adjuncting and running study sessions at a community college, I took it, no questions asked. It was closer to what I wanted to do, but the pay wasn't great. Better than bagging groceries, but not by much. So we struggled financially, our money problems only adding fuel to an already volatile situation. But we could do anything for a year. After that first year of adjuncting, I would get a full-time teaching job somewhere. Then one year turned into two. But during those two years, I made connections that eventually led to my first full-time position as a high school English teacher. I learned quickly, however, as I've mentioned in previous posts, that modern high school is remarkably different from what I had expected, and I found that I struggled and was often depressed from the environment in which I found myself. The fact that my landing a job that made me uncomfortable coincided with my wife leaving me for the first time only served to make the past 12 months the most difficult year of my life, a statement I don't make lightly. It was more difficult than the year that followed my mother's death; more difficult than the one that followed my father and stepmother's marriage,  a year of new people and new roles, of learning how to assimilate to a new environment, one marked by struggle and tension; for the events of this past year came at a time when I was in a position and of an age to more fully understand the effects of these events, a time when more variables were at play, and more lives were at stake concerning the actions made by those involved. And yet, as I sit here writing this, in the back of my mind, I hear, "We can do anything for a year." The past year is over, and I wonder where I go from here. I have an interview this week for two positions at a community college, either of which I  would love to get, and it seems that all of my efforts, all of my previous jobs, have led me to here, as if in preparation for either position. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but only time will tell. So I will wait and continue on, with patience and diligence. And regardless of the outcome, I'm far happier now than I've been in years.


Yesterday morning at church, I watched an eighty-two year old man be baptized. His name is Charley, and I'd heard over dinner earlier in the week that he'd gotten saved. I recognized the name when I heard it, though I couldn't put a face to it. And then when I saw him yesterday morning as he made his way into the water, I immediately recognized him as a man I'd seen countless times at church over the years. He was a regular attendee, and had I not learned he'd only recently accepted Christ, I'd have been none the wiser that he hadn't been a Christian all along as he sat in the pews week after week for all those years. Our pastor talked of all the people who had prayed for this man, prayed that he'd come to know Christ before he died; prayers that had been offered up for years by the faithful. Prayers of people who had prayed, waiting patiently, diligently, for this man to come to know a Christ who had waited and called just as patiently and diligently for all those years. Prayers of a people who never gave up because they loved this man.


As I sat on my porch the next evening, I noticed that the spider had woven a beautiful web. Patiently, diligently, it had not only made its way up that single strand, but had turned that strand into something magnificent. Something intricate. Something beautiful. All it took was time, patience, and diligence.

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