Lessons Learned Outside

Four things are the smallest on earth,
yet they are the very wisest:
the ants, a people not strong,
who ready their bread in the summer,
the badgers, a people not mighty,
who makes their home in the cleft,
the locusts, who have no king,
and march out all in a row,
the spider, who can be caught with hands,
yet it is in the palace of kings.

It’s only 1pm and the temperature has already risen 27 degrees since the overnight low. Gnats are buzzing around a holly bush outside my window. The seeded dirt I’ve been watering the past few days has altered its color, almost imperceptibly; the brown is giving way to living green.

And the Lord’s people notice these details of nature, bend down to peer more closely, and are inclined to locate a spiritual reality or two in them. After all, the whole package of truth, from sacred to profane (profane technically means “unreligious,” lit. outside of the temple), is of God: recurring motifs would make sense.

“Consider the lilies,” Jesus said, and so released us from gray asceticism, from an ungrounded numinosity, and from a chilly scientism that rigorously excludes notions of the Creator from the creation. Go ahead: notice the details, and worship.

In our considerations of nature’s lessons in invisible truth, we don’t always have to come up with original material. Here Agur son of Yaqeh has done some of our thinking for us. One note: Because of some tick, Agur liked to group things into lists of four. So here are four small creatures that oblige us to reconsider the whole idea of strength:

1. The ant teaches us that diligence in preparation is (at least) the equal of natural talent that enjoys fewer limitations.

2. The badger teaches us that a strategic location compensates for other deficiencies.

3. The locust teaches us that a willing, disciplined unity turns insubstantial individuals into a powerful force.

4. The spider teaches us that an attitude of opportunism transforms weakness into strengths.

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