Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spiritual lessons from the Cicadas...

May 31, 2016

As I type this, there is a distinct and some would say obnoxious sound going on outside. I can hear this sound from inside my office, with music playing on my computer. It’s those strange little bugs called Cicadas; the Brood V 17 year Cicada to be exact. These unusual and curious creatures haven’t made an appearance for 17 years and they last time this Valley was introduced to them was in 1999. In 1999, Bill Clinton was President and was impeached by the US Senate (I’ll resist commenting further); Michael Jordan announced his retirement only to return a year or so later; a professional wrestler named Jesse Ventura became Governor of Minnesota, the horrific and tragic shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado took place where several Christian students were killed, the Space Shuttle Discovery completed the first docking at the international space station. In 1999 the average price of gas was about $1.14 a gallon and Cecil H. Underwood was Governor of West Virginia! All that to say a lot has happened since these Cicadas came on the scene.

They seem to be the topic of conversation and curiosity and I’ve been interested in them myself. I’ve heard a number of people question their purpose and comment they have pitiful lives. After all, they are buried in the soil for 17 years and when the ground temperature reaches 65 degrees 8 inches below the surface and the rain loosens the soil, they emerge by the millions crawling up trees, shedding their outer shell and for 6 weeks they produce an ear splitting cacophony of noise that gets louder as the day goes on. Their dead bodies litter our sidewalks, driveways and yards to where you can’t walk without stepping on them and we wonder what in the world God had in mind when He created these things? Here are some quick spiritual lessons we can learn from the Cicada.

1. They draw our attention to our Creator God. In this area we’re surrounded by natural beauty but we get immune to it and stop paying attention to the magnificent Creation our Creator and Maker God Almighty has made. You can’t ignore the presence of these Cicadas and so you cannot ignore the Creator who made them. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” I think one simple lesson from these insects that show up once every 17 years is to draw our attention to the Creative handiwork of Almighty God. 

2. Cicadas play an important role in God’s Creative plan. They help prune trees and underbrush by the cuts they make in the wood to lay their eggs. Weaker and dead limbs will often fall off the tree allowing new growth to take place. They are a tremendous food supply for birds and all manner of creatures who find them rich in protein. The robin population that stayed at my house nearly all winter long are a testimony to that! When Cicadas emerge after 17 years, as they burrow up to the surface, they create a pencil sized hole that goes down about 8 inches and so they aerate soil very effectively, better than any machine I have access too. After they breed and die often at the base of those very same trees, their nutrient rich bodies decay and fertilize the tree roots below and their offspring burrow down into the soil for 17 years. These are only the things I’ve been able to learn in my research and yet they speak to me that God’s wisdom and Creative design are infinitely greater than I can comprehend.

3. Cicadas teach me that God’s resources are limitless. I couldn’t even begin to count the numbers of these things I see on the ground at my house and certainly I could not guess how many million there are in the trees singing their hearts out with their mating calls around me. In their simple way they remind me that God doesn’t need my help, my wisdom, my power, ability or lack there-of. God is self contained like these strange bugs and His power and might have no limit just like there seems to be no limit to the numbers of these creatures.

4. Cicadas teach me that God can use anything to bring glory to Himself. These 17 year Cicadas help me learn that if God can use a bug like the Cicada to bring glory to Himself; how much more could He glorify Himself through me, someone He created in His own image, one to whom He gave a mind, a body and most importantly a soul that has a choice to enter into a relationship with Him. Paul said in 1st Cor. 10:31 “Therefore whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Whatever you do, live your life in such a way as to bring glory to God with all of what God has given you and don’t let some bug that shows up once every 17 years do a better job of bringing glory to God than you do.

5. Cicadas teach me about God’s character and nature. Who creates an insect that you have to wait 17 years to see? God does. God is so patient, patient with 17 year Cicadas to develop to maturity and He’s patient with sinners who desperately need to repent of their sin. These creatures teach us of God’s faithfulness, I have forgotten what was going on in my life 17 years ago in 1999 - oh yeah, I was in seminary preparing for ministry and my soon to be graduate son Garrett was only 2 years old! God hasn’t forgotten and is faithful to these little creatures and if He is faithful to them; He’s always going to be faithful to me. Cicadas remind me that time is in God’s hands and no one else’s and they help me see part of His eternal nature. We look at these bugs and marvel at their sad little lives that last 6 weeks or less top-side. Yet beneath the surface, they are there for 17 years! God’s eternal nature is like that because we don’t see it. The brevity of the life of Cicada highlights the eternal nature of God but also reminds me of the brevity of my life. Scripture says our life is like a vapor that quickly vanishes away (James 4:14). Cicadas don’t have much time to do what they do and neither do we. Paul’s exhortation to believers in Ephesians 5:15-16 is appropriate: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.” Cicadas also demonstrate the Holiness of God. How is that possible? God is holy which is His most unique character trait. God’s holiness drives everything else He does. What that means is He is “wholly other” - there is no one like Him in the universe and He operates according to His own plan, schedule and agenda which I see in the life of the Cicada. These are just a few of the character traits we can learn about God from the Cicada. I challenge you to think of other traits about God and His nature on your own.

6. Cicadas teach me of my glorious hope in Christ. Yesterday, while peering out my second floor window in my home office, I could see these Cicadas taking flight up to the trees, being drawn like a magnet to the call of their future mate somewhere in the wooded tree line. They know there is someone waiting for them and they will be together shortly...I won’t go further with my description. Seeing those bugs taking flight up to those trees encourages me that someday I’m going to hear my Savior’s call to come home to glory and I will go! It may be when I close my eyes here in death and my brief life comes to a close when I breathe my last; or it may be when the Lord returns and raptures His Bride, the church, home to be with Him. Either way, that will be glory for me. “Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me. When by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me.” (Charles Gabriel 1900). The Lord used these 17 year bugs to remind me that I have great hope because He’s going to call me someday to be with Him. I only have that hope because I’ve placed my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

These are just a few, quick simple spiritual lessons from the 17 year Cicada. When you hear their “noise” view it as praise to God and thank your Creator for the Cicada and praise Him for His infinite wisdom in making these creatures. Take time to reflect on some lessons the Holy Spirit might reveal to you before these creatures disappear beneath the surface in a few short weeks and apply those lessons to your own life. Remember that God loves you and has a plan for your life as you reflect on the simple Cicada; from my little corner of the world to yours...