May 7, 2024

From the Rector…

I got bit by a spider this weekend and, sadly, no I did not get any amazing spidey powers. Instead I got sick. I had no idea how much suffering a little spider bite could cause. I felt the sting—it was like a needle going into my neck—but didn’t think much about it at the time. I put a little Neosporin on it and forgot about it. By Saturday morning I was feeling achy in my joints and my muscles in my arms hurt but I had familial commitments for the day and no time to be sick—so I ignored them, put the achiness off as a poor night’s sleep and went about my day. By Sunday morning I was miserable. My whole body ached, I was queasy, extremely fatigued, felt hot even though I didn’t have a fever, had a headache, and my abdomen was distended as every cell in my body felt inflamed. The bite was red and hot and swollen. 

After the early service Sunday morning, I finally fessed up to Steve as to how miserable I felt. He ran home and brought me back nausea medicine and an antibiotic. I took them both and started to feel a little better but it was not until after the second dose that I really returned to normal. The bite continues to plague me a bit but nothing as extreme as the weekend.

It seems ridiculous that one little spider bite could cause so much havoc on my body. Not only was the bite itself itchy and painful, but the numerous issues of disease it contributed to me seemed way beyond the scope of its capacity—at least in my mind. How could something so small effect such a large system as the human body?

In the last fifty years a lot of work has focused on what is known as Systems Theory. Systems Theory is the theory or model of how parts of a system are engaged with one another and thus contribute to one another’s failure or success even if not directly acted upon. The classic example is called “triangulation.” If A has a problem with B and goes to C to complain about or enlist support against B, the whole system suffers—not just B. A makes C feel uncomfortable because A has put C into an awkward situation at the very least. C can do nothing to resolve A’s problems, only B can and B has been left out of the situation entirely. Even if C confronts B, the issue is really not C’s, so A still doesn’t get the satisfaction or result that A desires. The whole thing is rather complicated and messy and contributes to the general decline, if not outright failure, of the system/relationship. This breakdown in systems is true for spider bites, family dynamics, UN peace treaty talks, and even churches. No system is immune to this theory.

The crazy thing about Systems Theory is that it is not based in cause and result relationships. You cannot point out a single, underlying cause and expect to cure the system through its excise or treatment. The whole system contributes to the health or disease of the system and thus the whole system must be engaged to find health again.

We all contribute to a variety of systems and thus we are responsible for the health of those systems. If you are engaged in a system of which you complain continually, maybe it is time to stop complaining and start understanding how you are contributing to that system’s dis-ease be it the crime problem in Montgomery, a dirty house, or dissatisfaction with an organization you belong too. Complaints can be valid but only after we have done the internal work of understanding how we ourselves are contributing to a problem. Complaints are also more effective and contribute to the health of a system when they are taken to the person who can actually resolve your complaint and when you bring potential and creative solutions to the problem you are complaining about. 

As much as I tried to ignore my spider bite and complained about it to others, none of that led to healing. It was not until I actively engaged the bite through a medicinal regime that I started to feel better. Thank goodness Steve was smart enough to break me from triangulating my spider bite—complaining about it without doing anything about it. I am not completely healed, but my whole body feels a lot better and I am still holding out hope for some spidey powers or, at least, super spidey senses!

Light and Life,