Call me a softie.
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking to the men’s restroom during a break from the course I was teaching. On the cement ahead, a small but brilliant green flash caught my eye; a beetle had landed on its back, flailing its legs wildly trying to right itself. I smiled to myself. Beetles are some of God’s clumsiest creatures. I’ve seen June bugs fly smack into a wall and drop stunned to the ground, leaving them in the same helpless predicament as the fellow before me.
As I passed, I gently kicked it out of the way so it wouldn’t get stepped on, a small act of kindness that sent it spinning and skittering on its back across the cement. When I came back the other way, it was of course where I had left it, still helpless, still flailing.
I paused for a moment, then bent down to pick up a fallen eucalyptus leaf. When I held the leaf gently on top of him, the beetle immediately and reflexively grabbed it. I righted the leaf, and he spread his wings and flew away.
If this had been a Disney movie, we might have been friends. The beetle (let’s call him “Ringo,” shall we?) would have hovered in front of my face, expressing his gratitude and loyalty, promising one day to return the favor. I would have scoffed, kindly but dismissively. But the day would finally come when I needed Ringo’s miraculous rescue, and he would be there. The moral of the story would have been that even the smallest of creatures can do great things.
But there was no fairy tale moment, no tiny little “Thank you!” The beetle simply flew away because he could, oblivious to the power that had rescued him.
I wondered if it might sometimes be the same way between me and God.
I imagine that if my shiny little green friend had more than just an insect brain, he might have thought, “Dang! Flew into a wall again. Pesky wind currents! How’s a fella supposed to navigate through all that? Good thing I kept my wits about me. Just keep trying, that’s what I always say. Yes sir, just keep kicking those legs and eventually it’ll all work out.”
Well, anyway, if I had been him, that’s what my little beetle brain might have thought.
Theologians sometimes speak of “common grace” — not the specific saving mercy of the cross, but the everyday providence that preserves us, that saves us and all creation from the fullness of our folly. My natural bent is to take credit for being able to right myself after slamming into a wall. And yes, it is important to make good choices. But would I recognize the hand of mercy when it came?
I want to be more attentive. Perhaps we should all be more attentive, and with a humble posture of thanks. For what everyday miracles are you grateful?