Slow Cicadas and Hurried Christians
I think we have forgotten what living is and what living for God used to be like. I thought of that when I watched a cicada crawling out of its skin in my yard. I watched it all day. Using my time like this was okay because it was a Saturday, and I had nowhere to go. It took the thing the whole day to crawl out of its skin and to get away. It was mighty beautiful to watch.
I read up on this animal. A lot of theory went past me, except that they can buzz louder than a lawnmower at 100 decibels, which I find impressive. Some cicadas make the sound of a sprinkler, others of a ticking clock, and others of a lawnmower, but this is irrelevant to this podcast.
What is relevant is that the cicada lives 8 feet deep under the ground for most of its long, 17 yearlong life, and when it lives underground, it sucks up the water from plant roots. When it comes above ground at the right time, it sheds its skin, finds a partner, makes some eggs, and dies after about two to six weeks. A very short mission was completed.
And honestly, I find this interesting because I see this everywhere in the Bible. People whom God uses are in the desert for decades, like Moses, living a seemingly underground life. Herding sheep or doing whatnot, like Jacob in Haran for 20 years. And Jesus, the first thirty years of his life… nobody knows what he did then. It sometimes takes decades for God to fulfill a very short mission in the life of his people.
And then, the thing with the cicada is that this animal comes out of the ground with very hard skin. And because this skin is so hard, the animal cannot grow any further and has to shed its skin, and it needs to break free to grow more. So when it is free, this fleshy, vulnerable, beautiful creature can do its task in the world until God has designed it to die.
We have some idea of what serving God in this world is like. It is using every moment from our conversion to work in God's Kingdom as hard and fast as possible. To show immediate change after our conversion. To be immediately good and godly people who serve and serve until we drop. And that is why we look at the cicada and think, fool, come out of the ground sooner than these 17 years. Push faster out of your skin. Break that shell already. Quickly, you only have a few weeks to live. Hurry up and push and be free.
But God did not create creatures this way. And God shows in the Bible that he hardly uses human beings this way. God has patience. In the time that we are underground and in our shells, growing and maturing, God does not need us. God can use anyone. God never needs us, despite us thinking that he does. God didn't need Laban or Moses when they were roaming around the desert by themselves, and again, nobody recorded what Jesus did before he was 30 years old. Somehow, we didn't need to know. God was working something out in these men to prepare them for the future.
In western Christianity, we are all about stewardship of time, which is good. But don't moralize yourself or others for how they live their lives. First, you don't know what burdens people carry that make them inwardly focused and unable to serve others at this time of their lives. Sometimes, carrying themselves is hard enough and enough for God. But secondly, know that if you want to serve God and pray and look for opportunities, you will. But sometimes God puts you in the desert for a long time before he uses you for a short moment. So you don't have to burn out, try, push, fight and claw for the Kingdom. God doesn't need you that much. But he will use you.
Psalm 31:15. My times are in your hands. So are the cicada's times. And the times of people around us.