‘Tis the month for counting blessings and, while I have numerous things I could share which I am grateful for, those of you who know me well know I can’t help but find meaning in the absurd. I’ve been off the grid for several weeks, working hard on other writing projects, but I can’t let the season pass without sharing one particular blessing.
I am thankful for bugs. (Notice I am not including arachnids in this profession of gratitude.) In fact, this past month I have learned much from my little friends. It began in early October when my cousin, who lives out in the toolies, (That is redneck speak for way out in the woods with few or no neighbors in sight.) had caught a praying mantis and texted me to ask if I wanted it. Being a town dweller, my opportunities to observe and enjoy this particular species is limited. I jumped at the chance, and was soon taking custody of a dandy male praying mantis, whom my cousin’s children had named Jackie Chan, likely due to his naturally awesome kung fu fighting stance.
Jackie arrived in a large mason jar with foliage, and for the first couple of days it seemed a sufficient habitat. We were enjoying Jackie’s company so much that I decided to keep him for a time and expand his world. We dusted off a small vivarium which used to serve as a playpen of sorts for our rats. I went out to the yard and found some nice, leafy vegetation and even threw in some large rocks for his climbing pleasure. It was a sunny day and there were small bugs flying everywhere, making easy pickings for a hungry mantis.
With gentle hands, I placed Jackie in his new home. I was excited. He immediately flew to a branch and perched there, settling in and grooming himself. His supper was already in there, awaiting his pleasure, and I was satisfied that I’d done well.
However, within a few hours it was apparent that all was not well in insect paradise. The smaller bugs were dead, and Jackie was lurching about the plastic floor like a drunk kung fu master. I was perplexed. What had I done wrong? Then it hit me like a freight train. I had accidentally poisoned our poor diminutive guest.
My husband, bless him a thousand times over, keeps the shrubbery near our home drenched in pesticide. Now before you chastise me or judge, go and look up Giant Domestic House Spider. Go ahead. Really. I’ll wait. These past few years have been very mild here on the coast, and these nasty, nightmarish demons are plentiful. They like my house. Even with my husband’s diligence, we see upwards of a couple dozen of these big devils in the house each fall. I’m convinced that if my hero didn’t spray everything within 20 feet of the house, we’d end up like that old movie starring William Shatner from the ’70’s, Kingdom of the Spiders. Shudder!
Quickly removing a very unhappy Jackie from his new home, I gently put him back in the mason jar with its untainted foliage. He flopped around like a fish. I was horrified. I took him out and held him while he convulsed, legs sticking out at unnatural angles. My daughter, nature lover that she is, was full of empathy for the poor creature.
For two whole days, she and I cared for Jackie. We held a wet paper towel to his parched buggy lips. We walked him outside into the fresh air. Every time we thought he was dead, lying on his back with legs crunched inward, he would surprise us by reviving a bit when we held him in our hands.
It was miserable. Finally, my daughter and I had had enough. It was a bug, for Pete’s sake, but we found ourselves unreasonably grieved over his obvious agony. I decided that if Jackie was no better the next day, we would do the merciful thing and kill him ourselves.
The next morning, there was Jackie, once again lying on his back in the mason jar. As I lifted him out, he weakly flopped about in my hand. Saddened, I placed him on a broad leaf and resumed my morning duties.
As it was time to start Bible time with my girls, I peered into the jar and suddenly some words that Jesus spoke popped into my head.
“Hey, girls!” I called. “I know this is weird, but the Bible says that God knows even when a sparrow falls to the ground. How about we pray for poor Jackie?”
Yes. I’m that sort of weird. We prayed for Jackie. We asked the Lord to either heal his tiny body, or to take him back to the dust. We left this insignificant creature in the hands of our Father and went on with our day.
By the end of that day, our little friend was completely healed.
We renamed him Lazarus, because really, could he be called anything else at this point? When he came forth, grabbed the grasshopper we offered, and ripped its head off, we cheered. A small part of me wondered at the absurdity of all this, here we were rejoicing in watching the insect version of Night of the Living Dead, Lazarus tossing the head aside and sucking out the juicy bits with obvious relish. But this was a moment of thanksgiving. Why?
As a mama, I so desire for my kiddos to see God’s hand at work. For them to know, without a doubt that they matter to the Creator of the Universe. And though I am not usually one to bother the Most High with such mundane matters, He had orchestrated this event in just such a way to bring me to the place where I would bring this small matter to Him. And in doing so, He was able to show my girls that He is there, that He hears them, and that even a tiny mantis has the attention of its maker. Wow.
“But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29b-31, NLT)