The Great Surround
Stepping out of my car at home recently, I was struck by the curtain of sound that enveloped me as I walked into the house. The cicadas were alive in our sycamore (its name is “Charles,” because it’s “in charge” of the property). In an otherwise wonderfully still and beautiful summer evening, the hum and buzz of the insects struck me as a sign of abundant life extending far beyond the limits of the day I was just bringing to a close.
It also struck me that I probably notice the cicadas only sporadically. Many days, when the weather or my schedule or a deadline is pressing, the life of those cicadas may be just as present. It may even be just as noisy, but I rush past Charlie without taking note.
On a road trip earlier this summer, we were in Ohio when it became impossible to ignore the cicadas. Turning a corner by a city park, suddenly we were awash in cicadas. We had encountered the Brood X swarm that emerged this year in record numbers after 17 years. They were on the windshield and side windows, the rearview mirror and the car’s hood, on the trunks and branches and leaves of the trees along the road, and in a cloud hovering over the entire scene. I most certainly would not have wanted to step out of the car to go anywhere.
The contrast between these moments calls to mind a truth about something much more pleasant – the grace of God. There are times when it is unavoidably present, almost swarming us with blessing, an experience of wonder, powerful in its reality. It may be at a birth or when falling in love, in a healing moment or at a good death, quietly with a friend or family member or in the midst of a congregation’s jubilant song. God’s grace can nearly smack us in the forehead sometimes and fill our senses to the fullest.
Other times, we hardly notice it until there’s a quiet moment in which we become aware. Reflecting on an encounter, processing a decision, holding close another person’s words, or focusing on something far removed from my own concerns – any of these can bring a moment of realization that we have been touched by grace. We may not have noticed at the time, but God – in care and nurture and forgiveness and with a spirit of power – has made something possible that we could hardly have imagined.
Like the cicadas, God’s presence in grace may be insistent and unmistakable, and it may be unremarkable, too gentle to feel. It is always with us, though – surrounding us, sustaining us, blessing us, empowering us. Bless the Lord!
Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. – Psalms 32:1