Along with heat and humidity, the season of summer offers predictable sounds: rolling thunder, occasional fireworks, and outdoor concerts. One of the loudest sounds of summer comes from the buzzing cicadas. It is a high-pitched, electrical song that you might mistake for a transformer.
Bug noises themselves are not remarkable. But a few months ago I learned something fascinating about cicadas from an exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum. Did you know that some species of cicadas spend 13 or 17 years underground?
When I first saw it, I did a double take – but it’s true! Periodical cicadas spend most of their lives underground. When they hatch, the young bugs dig beneath trees to feed off of their roots. Then, depending on the species, 13 or 17 years later an entire brood emerges simultaneously. They tunnel into the “real world” for about 6-8 weeks to reproduce before they die.
Imagine the wonder with which they must greet the world above ground after being secluded for so long. Is that the same feeling we have when we become aware of God’s presence in our lives?
Life gets pretty dark. It can feel like our faith is futile. Our bodies are fragile, and they can break down in an instant. Judgmental voices surround us, causing us to question whether or not we are enough. Violence is so normalized that we feel the need to hide from one another. We feel lonely and helpless.
And yet a real encounter with love can make everything bright. When a friend sits with us as we grieve. When a stranger offers to change a flat tire. When we hear affirming words of praise from a coworker. There are moments in life that remind us that we are not alone, moments when it feels as though we are emerging from darkness into light. All we can do is shout for joy!
There is a scene in the book of Revelation that resembles this. In chapter 4 many creatures in heaven are rejoicing in the presence of God. In the midst of fear and despair they cling to God, who promises to be among them in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death. We read, “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’”
I know there is a scientific reason for their constant buzzing. But in my imagination, cicadas are so overwhelmed by the beauty of the world and the countless possibilities of this new life that they cannot help but sing. The same goes for us when we recognize God’s power in our lives.
So, let’s embrace the moments of love and hope that guide our faith. And whether in a monotonous hum or in sweet harmony, let’s never stop making joyful noises to God together.