Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lesson from a Praying Mantis Egg Case

            Several years back, I bought some praying mantis egg cases to put in my garden.  But we wanted to watch them hatch (and raise one in a tank on our counter), and so we kept the egg cases in the kitchen suspended from a stick over a bowl.  For weeks they did nothing.  They just sat there, like dried-up walnuts.  I was beginning to wonder if we had a couple of duds.

            Well, we never got to see them hatch.  Because one day, I woke up to find this note from my husband on the kitchen counter:  “There are baby mantises EVERYWHERE!”  I didn’t notice anything at first as I looked around the kitchen.  But as I looked closer and watched longer, I began to see these tiny, little, wispy things.  These little, half-inch creatures – like shards of glass or pieces of spider web - running all over my kitchen.  They were everywhere.  And the more I looked, the more I saw.  They were on the counters, in the dishes, on the stove, in the honey, and hanging upside down from the ten-foot ceiling.
            One poor, little guy got his head stuck to a piece of tape.  And he was just wiggling there, so close to freedom, but so far away.  I felt bad for him.  And I thought that if I could gently pull him off of the tape (he was barely attached to it, just by the tiny tip of his head), I could set him free.  So as gently as I could, I tugged on the piece of tape.  And off popped his head!  My stomach just about fell out onto the floor, and his body was still squirming in my hand.      
            I spent the next two days catching sixty to seventy baby mantises and putting them outside.  And for many days, I would be doing dishes and I would look up and see a little refugee running across the ceiling or hanging upside down under a cabinet, staring at me.  It was quite a while before my kitchen was mantis-free.  And all because I ignored one little command:  “If you keep the egg cases in the house, keep the bowl closed tightly.”
            I think I was lulled into a false sense of security when nothing seemed to be happening as the egg cases sat on my counter.  I mean, surely, I would be able to tell when they were about to hatch, and I could get them outside in time.  Right?  I had my own ideas about how it would work.  And since two little, dried-up walnuts didn’t look like much threat, I neglected to take one tiny piece of the instructions seriously.
            I think that’s how it is with us sometimes when it comes to following the Bible’s instructions.  We gloss over the smaller things.  We don’t see too much risk in ignoring this little command or that little piece of “advice.”  And when we do ignore one, we don’t see much happening at first, and so we get more comfortable with doing what we want.  We have our own ideas of how things should work, and it seems to be working out just fine.  Until the day that the eggs hatch and we find the consequences of our disobedience everywhere, if we look hard enough. 
            I think this is a lesson in how important it is to be as faithfully obedient in the “small things” as it is in the big ones.  It is crucial to the health of our lives, our relationship with God, our marriages, our families, etc., to be faithful and God-glorifying in the everyday, unglamorous tasks.  Honoring your marriage vows, cooking, cleaning, raising children, reaching out to the “lowest of the low,” being a person of your word, watching your tongue, doing your job to the best of your ability, respecting your spouse, honoring your parents, etc.  All of these things are to be done to the best of our ability and for God’s glory.  
            1 Corinthians 10:31:  “. . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

            I know the value of praying mantises in the garden is questionable - because they eat good bugs as well as bad bugs.  But they are such fascinating creatures that I like having them around just for the sheer surprise of catching a glimpse of one.  One spring when I was taking a walk with my kids, I happened to see a mantis egg sac stuck to a bunch of brush that was on the curb getting thrown out.  I snatched it up and I put it in the garden to hatch, where it belongs.  And we happened to walk outside the day it was hatching, and we got to see all the little baby mantises emerge.  And then run for their lives the moment they hit the plants below them.  So I guess we got to see one hatch after all, when we did things the way they should be done!  It was really cool!