“I waited patiently upon the Lord; he stooped down and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1
The other day I was talking to a parishioner when a movement caught my eye. I turned my head and looked over to see what it was, and I saw a small creature milling around on the sidewalk in front of the church in Virginia City. I walked over to get a better look and it was a moth!
Now, I use the exclamation point (which I tend to use too frequently, I’ll admit. I am not sure as many things call for a hands-to-the-face, Macaulay Culkin scream as I would indicate in my writings. Still …) Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes; I use the exclamation point because I don’t believe I have ever seen a moth wandering around the snow in January before. It really caught me off guard. Hence: (!).
As moths go, this one was fairly large (probably about 3.2 centimeters – I always use metric when describing nature, as it makes me look and feel much more scientific in recording my observations. I get more ooze and Oz that way); I wondered why she was outside and wandering about. Why wasn’t she inside where it is warm, or hibernating, or gone to where moths go when the air is frigid and the wind is howling?
Being dark and fuzzy (I presume it was Woolley MamMoth) she really stood out in stark relief on the snow-scape and would be easy pickings for the local magpies and moth-eating critters in town. Perhaps she had given up on life and was looking for a swift end to it all, or …
… maybe she was on a rescue mission. Maybe she was looking for food to bring back to the nest (or wherever moths live) to feed her young. Maybe she was looking for her kids – like a good MOTHer would.
Ultimately, I cannot know what she was doing or why she was there. What I do know is that I was surprised to see her, and she was exposed to whatever dangers the elements and nature hold in store for moths; what is true for her is probably true for us.
We may feel more sheltered and protected from the elements, what with our homes and clothes in which we bundle up, steady food supplies, clean water sources, a “mostly” dependable electrical power grid (and the genuinely hard workers who keep it going, day and night through the stormy blasts), but are we? It’s only a matter of degrees.
It’s true; I don’t worry about birds plucking me from out of the air. With cell phones and modern means of communication, I don’t misplace my children nearly as often as I might have years ago – for which I am quite thankful.
However, life is still mostly uncertain. We live in a world where one can go to school, to the movies, or to the grocery store and be shot in a random act of violence. One can be driving home, obeying all the rules of the road and get blown off by a roguish gust of wind. One can eat and drink all the right things and suffer a stroke or heart attack, or develop an illness for which there is no hope or cure.
The world we live in isn’t as far removed as from that of the moth when one thinks about it. If there is a difference, it is simply a matter of degrees, not of kind.
And yet, can we learn something from the moth? Yes, I believe we can. The moth does not worry; it is not filled with anxiety (as best we can tell). If hungry, it seeks food. If thirsty, it seeks moisture; if cold it seeks shelter; if in danger, it seeks escape. Are our lives really any different from that?
The difference I see is one the psalmist points out. Unlike the moth, we have a God who hears – Like Horton, the elephant who heard the Who. God rescues us from the mire, sets our feet upon steady ground, and keeps us forever safe in his love and compassion. God is the Flame which draws THIS moth, and that keeps my heart a-fluttering in this, our valley.