"Surrender": When to hang on tightly, when to let go freely in trust?

posted Sep 2, 2014, 2:49 PM by Vidal Martinez


As I drove to the post office a few weeks ago, I looked out the side window and couldn't believe what I saw - a glistening spider web was attached from the side mirror to the top of the car door's upper frame. At the middle of the web a teeny spider, no bigger than a fourth of a pencil eraser, clung to the center of those thin filaments with amazing tenacity. At each stop light I looked again to gain assurance of it's presence. I could only view the web when the sunlight angled just right, so I kept close observation. As I did so, I became aware of other drivers nearby possibly thinking of me as a bit insane, seeing me gaze out my window at seemingly "nothing at all." Nevertheless, I studied that minuscule creature intently, being in awe that it's home could endure the wind created by the car's speed. 

During the following days, each time I drove someplace I checked to see if the spider managed to keep his life and home intact. Sure enough, he stayed safely in place. The more I befriended this tiny companion, the more I thought about the profound metaphor his delicate, yet durable, web offered for my spiritual life. Most teachers of inner growth insist on surrender and letting go as essential for greater wholeness. That estimation contains much truth. However, "holding on" and remaining firm about certain interior convictions is equally important for maintaining one's integrity, and for stretching further into spiritual transformation. 

Last Sunday's liturgy included Psalm 63: 8: My soul clings to you. "Ah," I thought, "here it is, a confirmation about adhering to a firm source of strength. As the spider could not survive without the web's tough filaments, I cannot survive without a steadfast relationship with the Holy One. My soul, my core being, requires this reliable and enduring web-ness. Psalm 63 reminded me of Jessica Powers' poem, "The Garments of God" in which she writes, "God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul... here in the dark I clutch the garments of God." 

Clutching, clinging, holding tight like that tiny spider on the strong web - that's a vital dimension of my relationship with the Holy One. When I adhere to this divine presence through steady faith and daily prayer, I have the encouragement and inspiration to live my best. I've known the benefits of attaching my deepest self to this Beloved One time and again: while living in the bleakness of long-lasting grief; when yearning for a world of peace and seeing it violently torn apart; in making decisions to work through conflicts instead of running from them; in choosing to live simply in spite of the long arm of greed and consumerism trying to break my hold; by maintaining long-lasting and valuable relationships, even when these prove difficult. 

One other lesson I observed from the spider's resilient web involves its flexibility. I noticed the web endured because it gave itself to the wind's movement - rather than remaining rigid. So, here I am again, coming full circle to "surrender." When to hang on tightly, when to let go freely in trust? That is the mystery and the continuous experiment of the soul. What I do know is that the spider withstood what threatened to overcome it. And so will I, if my inner web is both sturdy and supple.