This morning I killed a moth.
As incredible as any living thing, the capabilities of a common moth are quite astounding, if you’ll just take a moment to think about them. Some moths, for instance, have so sensitive an array of sensing organs that males can detect pheromones from a female of his species at distances of up to five miles away. Five miles! Can you imagine? Consider how small moths are, how infinitesimal the pheromones must be that are put out by a single little female moth, and how vast the volume of air is between she and her distant suitor. Imagine, for just a moment, the myriad mixing actions that occur in the air in those five miles between them? Yet, not only he can sense her, he will find her. What?!
Some moths sing like songbirds in a high-pitch, ultrasonic voice that we can’t hear – pity us! Some moths can sense the echolocation of nearby bats and will fold their wings to create a sudden fall to foil predation.
But, among their array of amazing attributes & abilities, I’m always floored by their change from a ravenous caterpillar to the elegant moth flittering around the flowers in our yard. In a nutshell, caterpillars weave themselves into a little nest, melt into sludge, and then re-assemble into the winged marvels we see flying across the fields (or eating our clothes in the closet). I can’t get over it. It’s not hyperbole to say that they melt into sludge.
Here’s maybe the most amazing part: The creature that emerges (the moth) is not a re-arranged machine of the same parts as the caterpillar, as if they were some sort of real-life Transformer, like the movies. No. The moth is nothing like the caterpillar. The legs are different, the eyes, those sense organs, the digestive system, the mouths, everything! They are completely different from the creature that entered the cocoon! From a crawling little tube of leaf eating fame to a flying connoisseur of nectar. If we didn’t see the one transform into the other, we’d never connect the two!
As I drove our car up the hill from our home this morning, I wasn’t thinking about any of that. I wasn’t thinking about the caterpillar, the moth, or anything related to them. I was just driving up the road to meet a friend of mine for coffee, trying to find the right song on my phone to get me through the five-minute trip.
In a whitish flash of wings, I saw it for the briefest of moments in the headlights. Then the crushed remains were pasted to the grill of our Camry. The antennae, so sensitive it defies the furthest reach of man’s creative powers; those wings, capable of beating up to 80 times a second in some species; those voicing organs – all of it (and every other part) mashed together again, but now forever unable to reassemble. Another tick of the clock in the driveway, or a second sooner leaving the house, and I’d have missed it. Had a turn of fate intervened, that moth would still be on the air currents, going after that female. But now… Gone.
This morning I killed a moth. I’m not so sensitive that the death of a single insect drives me to my knees. But, it’s the realization of how entirely complacent I’ve become to death that grieves me. Death is all around us: The deaths of people we love, people we don’t know, pets we cherish, animals we see on the road, rats we trap, spiders we stomp, moths we plaster on our grills and windshields. Death is… everywhere.
It wasn’t meant to be.
God did not intend for death to be our milieu. It wasn’t His first plan. God meant for us, for people and animals, fish and insects, to live in a world without death, suffering, and trouble. God meant for us, we people, to live in His presence on this Earth. We changed that. We caused the world to be plunged into the misery and suffering that we see all around us, the destruction and chaos that we view in nightly newscasts.
We did that.
I’m not so sensitive that I see that one dead moth and cry for the insect. Instead, I see the dead moth and I’m reminded of the truly breath-taking beauty of God’s creation, from the mystery of DNA to the majesty of the creatures that that very DNA replicates. I’m pained by my complacency regarding death, and I expect we all suffer from that same sort of complacency, to some degree. We’re nearly immune to the suffering all around us, and by that immunity we lose a certain facet of familiarity with the God who created us all.
God’s plan included the splendor of life, and the unrivaled majesty in all living things – a fingerprint of the One who made us all! Man’s fall from grace doomed life to death, and occluded so completely the majesty of God’s creation that we have lost not only our sense of tragedy but our sense of wonder; our sense of His majesty; one reason (among many) to worship the God who created us.
I killed that moth this morning. Me. I did that. And, I’m pained by the loss of such a magnificent creature that God made for His pleasure and ours, a creature we should see and think immediately of God’s majesty and holiness. Instead, I saw it smashed, and all that beauty and mystery, built by God Himself and placed into every living thing, squashed in a moment.
We see a dead moth and we think, so what? We forget that the moth is an absolute masterpiece of creation! Not just a moth… every living thing! Have a look into the Lilliputian world of microbiological processes; watch animations of the mind-blowing processes of cellular replication and be staggered by God’s creative mastery. We were, I believe, meant to behold the majesty of that mastery, and ascribe it to the author of life, God Almighty.
The elegant complexity of the common moth is overwhelming in splendor! God is overwhelming in splendor! And, we were meant, I think, to see moths in the meadow of a sunny afternoon and be driven to our knees in worship for God who made everything – moths included.
Instead, I watched it be squashed, and I thought, “Bummer.” Then I went back to finding that song I wanted to hear, back to making my way to my meeting, back to business as usual.
Is it possible that we have, in our struggle of life & death, lost our sense of the miracle of life in God? If so, then that is the real tragedy. But, in tragedy there is another fingerprint that can be found.
In the tragedy of the fall of man, God set in motion the plan of man’s redemption; the path by which all people can return to Him. The redemption from death and its attendant misery, the release from bondage to the grave, is found in God and His plan of redemption by sacrifice: The sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ. At once simple and sublime, God’s call to grace is majestic! And, Jesus’ fulfillment of the plan is splendorous – worthy of our acceptance of that plan; worthy of our falling to our knees to worship the One who made it.
This morning I killed a moth, and I’m reminded that, despite the misery of death, God has made a way to return to Him; that, despite all I do that leads to death; despite all I do to unhinge my life, God will afford me the promise of the ultimate release from death and destruction. This morning, I’m reminded of the holiness of God, and only God. This morning I’m reminded of Psalm 145:
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.”
In your path today, may you encounter Jesus. May you find God’s love and redemption in this world of death and misery. May you accept by faith God’s fingerprint in your redemption through Jesus Christ.
May His peace, His fingerprint, be upon you today.
(Photo credit Anita Gould / FLICKR)