The Giant Sequoia, Cicada, and Me

Several years ago, an experience and a news story prompted me to start thinking.  First, the experience.  This was an incredible trip out West where my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the Yosemite National Park, Giant Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon.

Kings canyon sign 100_3502
Kings Canyon National Park.

The scenery was jaw‐dropping.

Yosemite 2011 WRM 086
We walked 1/2 mile to an overlook and emerged out from the wooded mountainside to see this incredible vista.

For this story though, the majesty of the scenery takes a back seat to the Giant Sequoia Trees.  These trees are beautiful and to say they are tall would be an insult … they are huge … no, they are gargantuan!

Yosemite 2011 WRM 016
Giant Sequoia Trees in the Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park. So tall that their branches begin at a height the other trees can only begin to reach.

While no one really knows how old the trees are, the National Park Service says that it is estimated that the Giant Sequoia Trees are between 1800 and 2700 years old.  Some of the trees have even been given names of states, presidents and influential people in our country’s history.

In 2002 the National Park Service measured the trees and found, for example, that the tree named General Sherman is 274 feet in height and 102 feet in circumference.  The tree named General Grant is 268 feet tall and 107 feet in circumference.  The tree named Washington was 254 feet high and 101 feet in circumference.

Now to the news story. The headline was something like “17 years in the making” [not an exact quote].  The article discussed the upcoming, expected cicada invasion.

Cicada
Cicada

Now, if you don’t know what a periodical cicada is, you might not think this is a big deal, but the word “invasion” might tip you off to the significance of this event.  Those of us who have experienced these bugs in person know that they are hard to ignore.  [How do you miss tens of millions of grasshopper‐looking, flying, chirping insects whose collective sounds, magnified by the sheer incredible number of them, sounds like a very loud hum?  That’s not really a question that needs an answer!]

I know that as a species, the cicadas have been around for millennia.  While I do not do this (yuck), many people in our world eat cicadas as a source of protein and calcium (I shiver as I write this!).  Further, records show that they were eaten in Ancient Greece, China, Malaysia, Burma, and Latin America.  (By the way, female cicadas are considered to be meatier than their male counterparts! Who knew?) And cicada shells are not uncommonly used in Chinese traditional medicines. (Shiver!)

The periodical cicada’s life can be summarized by the statement that it lives underground sucking on tree roots for 17 years, emerges and mates for 4 to 6 weeks and then dies … all of the cicadas doing this at essentially the same time.  The female lays her eggs in tree limbs from which, after hatching, the future cicada drops to the ground, and burrows into the dirt where, during the next 17 years it matures and then emerges to do this ritual all over again.

What do the cicadas have to do with me, other than that I can’t stand the sight, sound or thought of gazillions of cicadas dive‐bombing me when I am outside?   In short, they don’t have much to do with me at all, personally.  They are outside and I am inside when they are around!

But, when I considered the comparative difference between the giant sequoia trees and the cicadas, I was prompted to think about all of God’s creation, including me.  Although the species has survived for millennia, why are these insects so short‐lived while the Giant Sequoia Trees have grown and survived for over 15 centuries — and where do I fit in?

God created all of us, you and me as well as the sequoia and cicadas and we each have our own specific God‐given role in this world.  I am much more like the cicada than the sequoia in terms of life‐span.  If I survive to 100 it will be a miracle, but the sequoia tree is not even out of its proverbial diapers at that point in time; whereas the cicada will have had almost 6 generations when I reach 100 years of age.

In the book of Genesis, we read:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28.

On the basis of creation’s history in Genesis, I can affirmatively assert that I am different, unique, separate, from the sequoia and cicada because God said so.  Mankind is viewed by God as being the paramount creature in the creation story — we were created in God’s image, something that does not apply to any other creature.  And, God said that we are to have dominion over all the rest of creation, because that is how God ordained it to be.

Of course, we know that Adam sinned and we are not in the same state of grace that applied at the time of creation.  But the sin of humankind does not reduce or eliminate the sovereignty of God.

The Psalmist says that we are to measure our days because they are numbered by God.  (Psalm 39:4‐5) God’s sovereignty even extends to His knowledge of how long each of us will live.  Each of us has a specific purpose that God has ordained, and we will only find our true happiness, comfort and peace in God when we fulfill that purpose.

We are told in Scripture that He has given His Son’s life as an atoning sacrifice for us … not for the cicadas or sequoia.   We can be assured that we are of infinitely more value to God than either the Giant Sequoia Tree or the cicada because, as a result of His grace and Christ’s death and resurrection, God has made a way for believers in Christ to be with Him for eternity!

Praise Him.  And may I use the days that He has granted to me for His glory.

Father, I praise You for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, your Son and my Savior.  I praise You for the gift of life and for your sustaining presence, grace and mercy towards us.  I pray that You would conform me to the image of your Son so that I would glorify You.

THERE IS ALWAYS TIME, RIGHT?

We measure time all the time. Here, Bill is using a lawn sun dial which we came across at Blenheim Palace in England. The pointer (human) stands on the right spot for the month and day, and then you extend your arm straight up revealing the time. He was doing this shortly after 1:00 p.m. and the shadow on the ground is just clearing the 1 o’clock dial. That is one way to tell time! No electricity or battery backup needed – of course it must be sunny! [Apparently there was no need to tell time at night! J ]

 

Human sundial at Blenheim Palace (C)
Blenheim Palace lawn sundial — telling time without electricity or batteries!

 

For us, however, we feel that time is of critical importance, whether day or night. We react to events, plans and situations as they come our way, and we constantly run out of time to do all that we have on our calendars or that we want to accomplish. But unless it is our birthday, we rarely think about the amount of time we have already lived ‐‐ or, more to the point, the length of time we have left to live.

 

Just this morning we read in our local newspaper about a 39 year old businessman who died in a skiing accident in Colorado.  I have no idea if this gentleman was  believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  While I don’t know if he was a Christian, I feel certain that he did not know that yesterday would be his last on this earth. He did not know that all the dreams and plans that he was working on would be stopped on a dime when he drew his last breath. He did not know that his life would be cut short, or that he would not celebrate his 40th birthday, or that there was no more time allotted to him, here.

 

Over and over in Scripture, writers tell us of the short life span we humans have, warning us that there is no guarantee of one more second, let alone one more day, week, year, decade! An example of this theme is seen in Psalm 39:4-5 where King David writes:

 

Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. [NIV]

 

This theme is repeated in the New Testament teachings of Jesus in a parable recorded at Luke 12:16-21:

“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” [NIV]

 

This theme is again repeated in James 1:11 where James speaks of the man who goes about his business unaware that his life soon will end:

 

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.  [NIV]

 

James continues to say in chapter 4:13-14:

 

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” [NIV]

 

 

Big Ben (C)
Big Ben in London — the quintessential example of a powerful clock!

 

Scripture repeatedly warns us not to assume that we will be here tomorrow, in other words,  we are told that our life’s end may come when we least expect it.

 

Our Sovereign God has all this in His power. For this reason, we should focus on seeking the Kingdom of God rather than seeking worldly things. Matthew 6:28-34.

 

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:

 

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he [God] says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” [Quoting Isaiah 49:8] Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” [NIV]

 

I saw a series of television advertisements, most likely by a pharmaceutical company but I don’t recall which one, that say that you will not get an invitation or a bulletin warning that tomorrow you will have a fatal heart attack.   Whether or not you use their medicine, the point is one worth consideration because it has eternal consequences.

 

In our human arrogance we think that there is always time to seek salvation.  I’ll do it later.  There is always time, right?

 

While there are many questions for which I have no answer, I do know the answer to this one. No!

 

One of these days time will run out and there is absolutely no way that you or I know when that day will come. The Apostle Paul was right – act now, while there is still time. Today is the day of salvation!

 

Father, we pray for the family of the young man who died in the skiing accident yesterday.  We pray that he was a believer in Jesus Christ and that our Lord will be near and provide comfort to the grieving family. We also pray for those reading this post, that if they do not know the wondrous love of the Lord Jesus, that they would look to your Word and that your Spirit would touch their hearts so that saving grace would be made real to them this day. And, Father, we pray that you would remind each of us, daily, that our time is limited, and that we should make the most of each day you grant to us for the furtherance of your Kingdom, to your honor, glory and praise.