“We hence see the exuberant goodness of the Creator, who hath not only provided for all the necessities, but also for the pleasure and recreation of all sorts of creatures, and even the insects and those that are most despicable.”
– Jonathan Edwards “Of Insects”
On this Ash Wednesday, as we begin the season of Lent, I would like to consider together with you the Grace of Christ that lurks in the nooks and crannies of our lives. On this somber day, for a moment, let’s allow the possibility that the Grace of Jesus is not wholly seen by our eyes; not fully heard by our ears; not truly understood in our perception. Grace is not often gaudy, but quiet, moving slowly and effortlessly within our hearts and in the world around us.
In the Scriptures we read about the faith of a mustard seed moving mountains and about being faithful in small things and about Christ saying suffer not the little children to come unto me and about Christ knowing how many hairs are on our heads and that He feeds tiny birds and clothes the wild flowers in beauty. Among other things, I think these verses tell us that Christ cares about small things…in between things…what we might call boring things.
Yesterday I read an article by Jonathan Edwards – one of the greatest theological minds ever to live in America. The article was about the beauty and wonder of spiders. Edwards went into intricate detail about how spiders, almost invisible to men, hop from tree to tree and shoot a miraculous “liquor” out of their tails to spin their webs. He explains that their webs are spun in the full light of day, yet we do not see them unless the light and our line of sight come together at the proper angle.
(They) are so exceeding small and fine as that they cannot be discerned except held in a particular position with respect to the sun.”
These tiny creatures, dancing in the shadows, after fulfilling their divine purpose, eventually construct a substance from their webs that enables them to fly by catching hold of the breeze, taking them out over the ocean and into the sea.
Edwards says that he learned these things about spiders through careful observation, which means he must have spent time out in the fields, observing the insect world. He went on to say that this taught him much about the Wisdom of God and how God does such miraculous “little things” among the insects.
Reading Edwards’ words caused met to consider my nature and the modern culture in which I live. We claim that we cannot hear God and never imagine that it is our pride that clogs our ears and not God’s silence. We, being blind, accuse God of hiding from us. We demand that Christ speak to us with large, over hanging words, written by hand in ornate calligraphy, replete with personal affirmations and affections. We order Christ to play his music according to our tastes, to dance a jig for us, to make much of us, to entertain us. We forcefully require Christ to be our Jester and not our King; we order the Church to be our spiritual muse while rejecting her as our mother.
Meanwhile, thinking ourselves abandoned and betrayed, we are absolutely drenched in the Glories of God. We are swimming in the Grace of Christ. We sit at a Banquet Table with clenched lips and accuse God of starving us to death while Manna falls from the heavens; but our eyes are closed. Our Line of Sight is not adjusted to the Sun. The spiders in the fields weave wonderful tapestries from the tip of their tails and ride the wind into the seas; but we do not see. The heavens are telling a story. Nature is singing a song. The Gospel drips from the trees as each branch reaches for the skies, lifting holy hands to the world’s Redeemer. But we cannot hear nor see nor feel the music because we are blind, deaf, unfeeling, unthinking…numb and jaded by our idolatry.
Yet, it is in the small things…in the life in between, in the so called boring stuff of life, where our Savior dwells; And holding out His Gracious hand, to blind and silly men, our Messiah, not our Jester, lifts us up into the Full Light of Day, and singing soft the song of Mystery, He invites us to the Cross. As we bow our ashen heads on this first day of Lent to consider our hearts before God, may the Lord fully awaken every spiritual sensibility, that we may know the Resurrection joy that continually holds us in the quiet Grace of Christ.
Note: Just so you know, Edwards was only 11 years old when he made these observations. You can read his article “Of Insects” by clicking HERE.
Scripture Verses to Consider…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matt 5:3
“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” – Luke 16:10
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” – Matthew 6:26
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.” – Psalm 19:1-3