It was May 2015 a few days before Mother’s Day when before sunrise one morning I heard this strange, unusual sound off in the distance. It continued on and on as I tried to figure out what it was. I ruled out a siren and it wasn’t a motor humming. It wasn’t a helicopter or an airplane nor was it a passing sports car. After a few minutes it hit me. They’re back. The cicadas are back.
They come to our area in their predetermined life cycle, some coming every 13 years and another type coming about every 17 years. As the morning and the day wore on, I knew it was them, that they were back and they brought their whole family with them. In fact over the next few days, again and again in meetings or just visiting with friends the topic would come up. Some people were wondering what that noise was and others were well versed in the life of the cicada and provided valuable information out of their deep knowledge of bugology.
Occasionally someone would refer to them as locust and quickly they would be challenged and maybe even reprimanded and were told they’re not locusts, they’re cicadas. Regardless of where the discussion was going, the comments were made in favor of or opposed to the cicadas, I just thought again and again the cicadas are singing. This unusual class of insects that often make Mississippi home are here for a short time and they’ll be gone only to return in 13 years. While they’re here let me suggest to you that you do several things that will bring joy and pleasure to your heart.
First of all, listen. Sometimes you will be in a place and it will sound like they are two or three miles away and they well may be. Other times you will be somewhere and it will seem like the cicada symphony orchestra has set up right over your head and they well may be, but listen to them. They’re not harmful to human beings at all. They don’t bite, scratch, kick. They look scary and vicious to a lot of people. Great big bug eyes and plastic looking wings, but they won’t bother you in the least. Listen to them. If you hear one all by itself it may sound like a squeaky scratchy noise, maybe even like a beginner playing a violin. Oh, but when these folks get together, a congregation of cicadas, it’s amazing how they seem to harmonize and present a chorus of humming.
As a kid sitting outdoors in the summer in pre-television days, we used to watch the clouds as they would move around and take on various shapes that look like people walking across the sky or an airplane or even a ship. For the sensitive ear desiring to hear something good from these little creatures God made, you may be blessed to hear the orchestra warm up and then play tirelessly almost hour after hour. If you listen carefully enough you will be blessed.
Secondly, love. It is always true and forever amazing how hearing things changes according to whether or not you love. As a young pastor who had no children and certainly no grandchildren, I’d hear little kids get up at church and try to sing and it was almost, well at least to me, pathetic. In time the changes that came to my own life and the love that filled my heart for some little kids that came into my home and then to my kids’ homes, changed everything about the songs and the people who were singing. It was all good. Not just good, it was incredible. They could stand up there and sing and wave and pull at their ears, scratch their nose and the love in my heart simply would pour out saying that is absolutely wonderful.
It’s always that way when you listen to cicadas or grandkids or someone else that may be singing at your church. It changes the way you hear and the way you look at people. In fact, you can be in a group of folks and listen to them as they are complaining about contemporary music in our churches or you shift over into another group as they complain about the dry, uninspiring traditional music. Folks in either group may be showing their lack of love both for the people they are talking about and the subject matter of the song being sung.
See, what is true in our churches is also true among our brother and sister cicadas. They’re not mean or mad; they’re just doing what they feel led to do. They won’t be around long, so I would enjoy them and I would encourage you to just love them. Here’s the reality. Their expressions of sound are few and only briefly offered. That said, there’s a small window of opportunity for them to express whatever it is they’re expressing – praise or signals to other cicadas, and they have to take opportunities to do what they can do while there is time. Now regardless of whether you’re in the millennial class of folks or the baby boomers of the upward generation, be loving enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough to at least take a shot at enjoying the demonstration of praise only here a few days and then it is gone. It is true whether you are expressing your love for the folks at church and the various stages of generational process or you are reaching out to your grandkids or touching the life of your grandparents, mix in a little love and you will find that what is going on with them can be a blessing to you.
The third thing I would encourage us to do is just linger in love. As 13 year cycles come and go, obviously I have heard a number of them in my lifetime, and it is strange how you can recall what it sounded like, but when it happens again after a 13 year absence, boom, it shocks you again that it is happening. In Ecclesiastes 3, the wise Solomon made this observation from his brilliant mind and his even more brilliant heart that God had made all things beautiful (v. 11), and I guess you could put a footnote there that even the cicadas, or maybe even the teenagers, or maybe even the senior adults, or maybe even the toddlers, or maybe even the adventurous young adults, or maybe even the struggling, aching, precious soul limited in mobility, pretty much confined to a home, has a joyful expression to share with others.
The cicadas are singing. At whatever age or stage you may be in, why don’t you join them? It will bless you and you will bless most of us.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.