02 December 2012

Of Spider Fathers and Christmas Day

This article in the Economist magazine just blew my mind. Researchers took wolf spiders and ran experiments to see why female spiders consumed their mates following copulation.

What they found was shocking. When they looked at the hatchlings of mothers that feasted on fathers and those that didn't, here's what they found: when mommy ate daddy, 48% of babies survived one month after hatching. When daddy survived mommy, only 12% of the hatchlings survived.

Put simply: a dead daddy produced four times as many surviving hatchlings as a live one.

So what's more important: babies' lives or daddy's? The researchers hypothesize that, in giving up his life to his mate, the male wolf spider provides fuel to his offspring that make their survival more likely.

While I am happy to relate that I survived the creation of three children (100% of which survive, thanks be to God) with the partnership of a vegetarian wife, this story reminds me that fatherhood is filled with sacrifice. American fathers aren't consumed by our wives but by our children: braces, clothes, Christmas presents--and don't even get me started about the cost of college or driving.

Whether it's hobbies that we give up or careers, human fathers make these sacrifices for the same reason that wolf spiders do: because seeing our children prosper is more precious than anything--including Life Itself.

I'm reminded as we enter Advent today, of a father who gave up home, reputation and livelihood for the sake of a Son he did not create. There is no record that Joseph survived to see Jesus' adulthood, but Joseph's sacrifice set history in motion.