Through creation, God teaches us about himself, his promises, and our calling in the world. From the rain and snow that fall from heaven (Isaiah 55:10) to the rainbow that doesn’t (Genesis 9:12–17), the earth abounds with object lessons.
God often teaches us using animals. He commends to us the wisdom of rock badgers and locusts (Proverbs 30:24–28), the industry of ants (Proverbs 6:6–8), the dependence of birds upon God for food (Matthew 6:26), and the strength and endurance of eagles (Isaiah 40:31).
This means we should open our spiritual eyes when we step outdoors. Without being trite or simplistic, we can follow the Biblical pattern of looking and learning.
Go to the Cicada
Cicadas are everywhere in southwestern Pennsylvania right now. This surge is part of Brood V, which greets us every 17 years. The lifecycles and developmental stages of this critter are amazing.
Though fascinating, these bugs are a nuisance. Their shells cover the trees, their carcasses litter the sidewalks, and their noise is overwhelming.
What can we learn from these curious creatures?
1. Life is short.
Cicadas live about three to four weeks as adults. After they tunnel from the ground and shed their skin, they mate, lay eggs, and die. Compared to years of life in the soil, their time above ground is a blink.
Though we might measure our adulthood in years instead of weeks, our time is also short.
O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:4–5)
We are not promised tomorrow. Our lives are just a breath and God calls us to make the most of them.
Christian, don’t waste your life. Put away concerns about your own legacy and reputation. Remember you are loved in Christ, and glorify God with all your might in everything.
2. Adulthood requires preparation.
When cicadas hatch and drop to the ground, they begin a long process. They seek out tree roots, storing up nutrients for the years ahead. A huge proportion of their lives are spent preparing for their three weeks of adulthood.
Our children need more than physical nourishment as they grow. They also need preparation of the heart, mind, and character. Parents have a great opportunity, by God’s grace, to help shape the next generation.
When your children are grown, do you want them to love God? To love their neighbors? To show hospitality? To give generously? To excel in their work? To think carefully about the issues of the day? To be involved in evangelism and discipleship? To know and love the Bible? To have a rich prayer life? To be committed to a solid local church?
In today’s conversations, have the future in mind. What you model, what you discuss, and how you train your children will have a huge impact on the type of people they become.
3. Our songs mark us.
The unmistakable mark of the cicada, beyond the empty shells, is the sound. The male mating song is intense, lasting from sunrise to sunset. Opening my back door is like stepping into a circular-saw testing facility.
Christians should also be known for their songs.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
As a response to who God is and what he has done, we show our joy and thankfulness with our voices. Our happiness in God cannot be quiet or “personal,” confined to our inner selves. Glad hearts overflow with song, and this marks us as God’s people, children by his grace.
Learn from Nature
With God’s creation all around us, we have a lot to learn. Most children love to be outside, so these object lessons are a great way to talk with kids about God.
So let’s take advantage of our senses. God made the world for his glory and his fingerprints are all over it.
Photo Credit: James DeMers (2013), Public Domain