The Song of the Cicada Christian
“Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn, I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.” -Psalm 57:8-9
If you live in the South, or, according to the Magicicada Brood Chart, anywhere in the Mid-West, Central Plains, or along the East Coast, you are familiar with the recent hatching of the cicadas. If you are fortunate enough to live in the Mississippi River Valley, however, you are doubly blessed because there are actually two broods of cicadas that are hatching this year. Apparently, even in the insect world, there are late-comers; those who overslept a couple of years and are just now making their grand appearance…only to find their song isn’t the only one being sung. And thus we have, for our temporary enjoyment, the cicada duet as the fashionably late Brood 19 cicadas (whose timely family members hatched in 2002) are forced to sing back-up to the on-time Brood 23 cicadas. All in all, this year is proving to be quite musical as we experience a cacophony of cicada exultations.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve not only heard the song of the cicada, but I’ve also heard the moan of man as, one by one, groans about the incessant noise of the cicadas have resonated until they have matched the decibel level put forth by the cicadas! (Which makes me wonder if the cicadas are complaining as much about our droning as we are about their humming?) That’s when I thought about the similarities between cicadas and Christians. After all, we are both capable of making noise. Perhaps we have even more characteristics in common.
To find out how alike we are, I first gathered some facts about cicadas. Here’s what I found out:
- Cicadas follow growth cycles; they begin as larvae, develop into nymphs, then molt and emerge as young adults.
- Cicadas spend most of their life in the nymph stage; their adult life is short.
- Cicadas feed on the roots of trees.
- Cicadas can only reproduce while in their adult stage.
- Cicada males “sing” to attract females; this is necessary for reproduction.
- Cicada songs are pleasant… to other cicadas!
- Cicadas leave behind a shell as evidence of their new growth.
- Cicadas have years of massive hatchings; usually following a 13 or 17 year cycle
As I listed these cicada “truths”, I couldn’t help but notice how similar we, as believers, are to these unusual insects. We too follow growth cycles that represent our stages ranging from infancy (new believer; “baby Christian”), to adolescence (no longer a milk drinker but not quite a meat-eater), to adulthood (off the bottle and chewing on the meat). Unfortunately, just like the cicada, many of us spend more time in the “nymph” stage than in the adult stage. If adulthood for the believer is the period of time in which reproduction takes place…a time when faith is shared and new believers are “born”…then I fear that, comparatively, we spend more time in the preparation stage than we do in the reproductive stage. The preparation stage is, however, very important and what we feed on will determine how well, and quickly, we develop. Like the cicada, we too should feed on the roots of our food source. We need more than the milk of Bible stories, we need the doctrine embedded within those very accounts. The roots of the word of God are the truths upon which our faith is founded and grounded; we need to go deep to find these. Cicadas know the richest source of nourishment is located within the roots, where the main food source is stored; as growing believers, we too need to feed upon the rich nourishment that can only be found in the deeply rooted doctrinal truths of Scripture.
Once adulthood has arrived, it’s time to sing (if you’re a male) and respond (if you’re a female). Just as cicadas lift their voices in order to attract other cicadas, for the purpose of reproduction, we too should be making a noise for the kingdom! Our voices should be lifted in such a way that those around us hear our message and, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are attracted to what we have to say. Cicadas attract cicadas; mature believers should attract new believers. And, as beauty lies not only in the eyes but also in the ears of the beholder, the song of the redeemed should be as appealing to the Christian community as it is annoying to the secular community. We were created to be heard; we were made to “proclaim the praises of Him who brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). There should always be a song going up from those who know from what they have been saved and by Whom they have been purchased! Then, as others are drawn to this song, they too will join in until Satan is forced to cover his ears and beg for the “Song of the Believer” to cease!
Lastly, believers are similar to cicadas in that they too undergo a molting process. There is a time in every believer’s life when he sheds the old life that he has outgrown for the new life which is in Christ; Paul writes, “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). While we tend to think of this process as occurring when we move from unbeliever to believer, and truly this is a time of shedding the old for the new, there should also be times in our “believer life cycle” in which we, like the cicada, outgrow our old shell and step out of it in order that our growth may continue. In fact, we should have more out-grown shells than a cast of crabs! (Yes, that is the correct terminology. They may also be referred to as a consortium of crabs. Now you know. Thank you Google…lest you thought I actually knew this.)
While these individual comparisons find us more like the cicada than we may have expected, there is one other similarity that can be made but this one has to do with a communal behavior. While there are some species of cicadas that hatch yearly, the ones that we are currently “enjoying” are the 13-year variety. Another group, or brood, hatches in 17-year cycles. At these times, countless cicadas emerge in one accord and it is then that their song rings not only in the air but in our ears! For Christians, we can trace our loudest songs to those times when revival broke out across Europe and North America. From the First Great Awakening in the mid-1700s to the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, to the Third Great Awakening in the mid-1800s, and finally on to the Worldwide Awakening in the early 1900s, we can see a pattern of “emergence” occurring about every 50 years. Unfortunately, the cicadas have us beaten in this area as they hatch out far more frequently than we, as a collective group of believers, do. Perhaps we need to give that some thought. Perhaps, rather than wondering when the cicadas will stop making such a raucous, we should ask ourselves when we will begin making such a racket. May we all awaken and break out in song saying, “Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn, I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.” (Psalm 57:8-9)
May we all be Cicada Christians…feeding, molting, singing, and reproducing…for the glory of the Lord, for the good of mankind, and for the ears of all who will listen!