This past week, while reading Charlotte's Web to my sweet class (and laughing a lot along the way), I found a little lesson nestled inside of the story...not spoken out loud...but there nonetheless. Wilbur the pig, one of the story's main characters, is noticing how different his friend, Charlotte the spider, is from him. Below is the excerpt, straight from the barnyard (although lengthy, it is a worthwhile read):
Wilbur's Boast--Chapter IX
"You have awfully hairy legs, Charlotte," said Wilbur, as the spider busily worked at her task. "My legs are hairy for a good reason," replied Charlotte. "Furthermore, each leg of mine has seven sections--the coxa, the trochanter, the femur, the patella, the tibia, the metatarsus, and the tarsus." Wilbur sat bolt upright. "You're kidding," he said. "No, I'm not, either." "Say those names again, I didn't catch them the first time." "Coxa, trochanter, femur, patella, tibia, metatarsus, and tarsus." "Goodness!" said Wilbur, looking down at his own chubby legs. "I don't think my legs have seven sections." "Well," said Charlotte, "you and I lead different lives. You don't have to spin a web. That takes real leg work." "I could spin a web if a tried," said Wilbur, boasting. "I've just never tried. "Let's see you do it," said Charlotte. Fern chuckled softly, and her eyes grew wide with love for the pig. "O.K.," replied Wilbur. "You coach me and I'll spin one. It must be a lot of fun to spin a web. How do I start?" "Take a deep breath!" said Charlotte, smiling. Wilbur breathed deeply. "Now climb to the highest place you can get to, like this." Charlotte raced up to the top of the doorway. Wilbur scrambled to the top of the manure pile. "Very good!" said Charlotte. "Now make an attachment with your spinnerets, hurl yourself into space, and let out a dragline as you down!" Wilbur hesitated a moment, then jumped out into the air. He glanced hastily behind to see if a piece of rope was following him to check this fall, but nothing seemed to be happening in his rear, and the next thing he knew he landed with thump. "Ooomp!" he grunted. Charlotte laughed so hard her web began to sway. "What did I do wrong?" asked the pig, when he recovered from his bump. "Nothing," said Charlotte. "It was a nice try." "I think I'll try again," said Wilbur, cheerfully. "I believe what I need is a little piece of string to hold me." The pig walked out to his yard. "You there, Templeton?" he called. The rat poked his head out from under the trough. "Got a little piece of string I could borrow?" asked Wilbur. "I need it to spin a web." "Yes, indeed," replied Templeton, who saved string. "No trouble at all. Anything to oblige." He crept down his hole, pushed the goose egg out of the way, and returned with an old piece of dirty white string. Wilbur examined it. "That's just the thing," he said. "Tie one end to my tail, will you, Templeton?" Wilbur crouched low, with his thin, curly tail toward the rat. Templeton seized the string, passed it around the end of the pig's tail, and tied two half hitches. Charlotte watched in delight. Like Fern, she was truly fond of Wilbur, whose smelly pen and stale food attracted the flies that she needed, and she was proud to see that he was not a quitter and was willing to try again to spin a web. While the rat and the spider and the little girl watched, Wilbur climbed again to the top of the manure pile, full of energy and hope. "Everybody watch!" he cried. And summoning all his strength, he threw himself into the air, headfirst. The string trailed behind him. But as he had neglected to fasten the other end to anything, it didn't really do any good, and Wilbur landed with a thud, crushed and hurt. Tears came to his eyes. Templeton grinned. Charlotte just sat quietly. After a bit she spoke. "You can't spin a web, Wilbur, and I advise you to put the idea out of your mind. You lack two things needed for spinning a web." "What are they?" asked Wilbur, sadly. "You lack a set of spinnerets, and you lack know-how. But cheer up, you don't need a web. Zuckerman supplies you with three big meals a day. Why should you worry about trapping food?" Wilbur sighed. "You're ever so much cleverer and brighter than I am, Charlotte. I guess I was just trying to show off. Serves me right. Templeton untied his string and took it back to his home. Charlotte returned to her weaving.
In this selection I see Wilbur's determination, like many of us, to be something we are not. Why do we do this? We have the love of our Father, just like Wilbur had the love and provision of his owner Zuckerman, and barn-yard friends, Fern & co. What 'webs' are we trying to spin, when our Father is calling out to us...."I've already taken care of that!"...(Matthew 6) I know I do this all the time. Perhaps control, pride or insecurity lingers within me, but nonetheless, I see myself in Wilbur, as I try to force myself to be someone I am not, rather than celebrating who God has made me to be. Could we all think on this a bit, and have more joy and peace? Resting in the love of our Savior, who has 'fearfully and wonderfully' made us? (Psalm 139). Jesus, thank you for making each one of us an original. Help me, help us, to reflect YOU back to the world, by simply being ourselves, perfectly imperfect, just the way you designed us. We love you.