close up photo of a molting insect
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Column: The Song of the Cicadas

(Disclaimer: Columns may contain opinion, and opinions belong to the author.)

I woke up this morning to the song of the cicadas.  For several mornings I’ve been hearing a low humming that I couldn’t quite place.  I thought it might be the never-ending sound of road construction on Fury’s Ferry Road.  But the humming continued even when the road work had stopped. It wasn’t until I saw a cicada on my deck that I realized I was hearing the song of the cicada.  Brood XIX was announcing its arrival.

The emergence of these particular cicadas only happens every 13 years. And while some people may cringe at their arrival, I view it with wonder.  These particular cicadas have spent their life underground, and their emergence is brief – only five to six weeks.  They mate, lay eggs and then die.  In the meantime, they sing their song; the males singing to entice the females for a romantic rendezvous.

I wonder, as they sing, if the cicadas know that their span of life above ground is measured in days?  Do they sing to scare away death or do they sing to spite death?  Do they sing to enjoy this singular moment they have been given?

And what about us?  Do we have a song to sing as well?  Our lives are much longer than cicadas, but I’ve notice that our song is not so much one that proclaims life, but one that focuses on everything that proclaims death – negativity, despair, hopelessness – everything that is the antithesis of the Resurrected Jesus.  This is the same Jesus that said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (The Gospel of John 10:10)  

This life isn’t one devoid of trouble.  Again, Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (The Gospel of John 16:33).  This kind of life doesn’t ignore the problems of the world.  They face those realities head on but don’t allow them to define their lives. 

 It has taken me a while, but as a cancer survivor I’ve been learning to lean into life, not death.  It has been hard work to rediscover my song.  I’ve engaged in counseling, physical therapy, exercise, reading and reflection, maintaining a trusted circle of friends, deep prayer and meditation.  I’m a work in progress.   But I’ve been intentional about my new work of embracing the NOW, just like the cicadas.

Psalm 98:1 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.”  My beloved, look around for the marvelous things that the Lord is still doing.  A meditation I recently read asked that at the conclusion of each day we say, “Today I noticed….” 

Today I noticed the song of the cicada and stopped to listen to its message.  If a lowly insect can sing of God’s marvelous work, so can we. 

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Taylor, is a retired Episcopal Priest and full-time animal lover.

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