IT HAPPENS AT MIDNIGHT
By J.R. Ensey
Strange things happen at midnight.
Plesiometa argyra, the brightly colored orchard spider of Central America, was stunned into unconsciousness. It was going about its early morning routine of spinning its orbital web when suddenly, without warning, a wasp flew up and, in a frenzy of long thin legs, stabbed its stinger into the mouth of the Plesiometa. Immediately, the spider lapsed into stillness. The slender wasp with black eyes, three-quarters of an inch long, then curled her lower body under and jabbed her ovipositor against the paralyzed spider’s abdomen—depositing her microscopic eggs before flying off.
Richard Conniff was describing a scene he witnessed in the jungles of Costa Rica while preparing an article on spiders for National Geographic magazine.1
The spider was doomed from the moment it was stung by the wasp, although it does not realize it. In a few minutes, when Plesiometa awakens, it goes about its web-spinning and normal life, seemingly unaware that anything has happened—especially that it now carried its own killer. According to Dr. William Eberhard, a biologist on the faculty of the Costa Rica University, the wasp larva hatches in a couple of days and begin to make little holes in the cuticle of the spider to suck its blood. The larva eventually grows until it is like a bumper about the abdomen of the spider, feeding and slowly draining the life from the Plesiometa. For a couple of weeks the spider continues it daily routine of web-building and insect catching.
Then suddenly—at midnight—the larva takes control of the spider’s mind. Instead of waiting until dawn to make its usual web of fragile spokes, the spider now goes back and forth up to 40 times on the same few spokes. The wasp larva has switched on a subroutine in the spider’s mental “software,” shutting everything else off and repressing all normal urges. The result is a few sturdy horizontal cables, useless to the spider but perfect for the wasp larva, which now needs a place to suspend its cocoon for the final weeks of development. After completing this strong strand of webbing, the spider stops and just sits in the middle, waiting to be killed.
Conniff describes the subsequent scene of larva devouring the spider as “like a half-starved child sucking marrow from old soup bones.” By midday the larva looks like a glossy, fat cucumber. It then drops the withered, drained spider into the undergrowth and begins to spin its own cocoon which will be suspended from the silken cables supplied by the hapless Plesiometa.
As I read this gruesome description of life in the insect world, it made me realize that we, too, are living in the dangerous midnight hour. Strange things can happen. Could something or someone sting us into unconsciousness? Could we be stunned by some spirit of the age—greed, lust, or power-hunger—something that could be implanted in our lives causing us to abandon our normal functions as Christians and perform tasks which are the bidding of this new parasite? Scary, huh?
It could happen to an individual or even to a group of people—a local church, a district, or an organization. In fact, the Scripture states that “false prophets [will] introduce destructive heresies…Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute…these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up” (II Peter 2:1-3 NIV). I wonder: Could the enemy-wasp inject sufficient anesthesia to stun us long enough to implant television, worldly sports, false doctrine, psychological substitutes for the gospel, political correctness, cultural accommodations or some other form of ungodliness into our ministerial system? If so—at midnight—we will begin to spin strange webs that patronize agendas and purposes other than those to which we committed our lives so long ago when we were “in our right mind.” Our life-force will ultimately be absorbed into the identity of this foreign parasite and our inner strength utilized to support causes clearly denounced by elders of the faith. Our spiritual doom would virtually be sealed. We might retain the shape of that which we were originally, but the juices of life would be drained, leaving us hollow and useless.
Dr. Eberhard explains that at some stage the wasp larva can be surgically removed (by an outside power—a microsurgeon with a tiny scalpel) before the final evening of the Plesiometa’s life. After this is done, the spider continues to build the strong horizontal web for a few days, until the influences of the wasp have subsided, but eventually reverts to normal behavior. Once the he biochemical manipulation ceases, the spider slowly regains its former strength and resumes life.
Should the above experience happen to any church, the only hope would be a miraculous intervention by the divine Microsurgeon and the removal of that which is sucking the life from the body. It might not be painless, but what is life worth? What is one soul worth? The abdominal “bumper” must be removed—the weights of worldliness, earthly wisdom, false doctrine and political manipulations. Only then could we effectively resume the task of reaching the whole world with the whole gospel.
It happens at midnight.
1. Richard Conniff, “Deadly Silk,” National Geographic, 8/2001; p. 44.