One of the most inviting parts of God’s creation is the grass. In movies, children are often seen frolicking in the grass, families picnicking in the grass, and individuals lying in the grass. In theory, that sounds like a great idea: the grass looks soft and inviting. In reality, that sounds like a horrible idea: there’s always something lurking in the grass.
In Oklahoma, it’s chiggers. (No one really knows what chiggers are, but they’re itchy.) …and let’s be honest, there’s nothing soft about Oklahoma grass anyway.
On Long Island, it’s bumble bees. The grass is soft there, but there’s a risk to walking through the grass barefoot…or even in flip flops as my cousins and I have discovered.
In New Orleans, it’s stinging caterpillars (among other creepy crawlies). Yes, stinging caterpillars…
By the time someone told me about stinging caterpillars in New Orleans, I honestly didn’t believe them. Surely, this city can’t have another thing that different from the rest of the country… But, yes, there are stinging caterpillars here (in fact, I’ve heard they’re the only kind of caterpillar here) and this time of year they are everywhere.
There are two questions that immediately come to mind when first hearing of a stinging caterpillar:
- What does this stinging caterpillar turn into? A stinging butterfly? The answer is a really disgusting moth with horn-looking things on its head. (Thankfully, I’ve only seen pictures.)
I don’t have the answer to question #2. I’m sure a scientist somewhere does, but I still just don’t get why God made a stinging caterpillar.
My whole life I’ve been taught that caterpillars are fun, cute even! They have caterpillar rides, books, and toys. One of the first science projects I remember is watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. I feel like all those thoughts about caterpillars have been completely destroyed. I now hate caterpillars and take every opportunity to squish as many of them as possible (with shoes on, of course. I’ve heard stepping on one is like getting glass stuck in your foot…).
As I’ve been thinking about creation care, I can’t help but think about this seemingly awful part of creation. How do I take care of something that repels every part of my being?
Maybe start by not squishing them.
I don’t necessarily mean that literally. (I am not convicted about squishing the caterpillars in the least.) I mean that in comparison to God’s highest creation, His image-bearers…yes, our fellow man.
There are some people that I have no problem taking care of or treating with respect, but there are others that repel me about as much as a stinging caterpillar. In fact, there are some people that I’d do anything to avoid…even roll around in a pit of stinging caterpillars. (And there are some that I secretly wish would go roll around in a pit of stinging caterpillars themselves.)
But that’s totally not Christ-like. Jesus said, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 6:29 ESV).
When faced with stinging humans, I think need to ask myself the same two questions I asked myself about stinging caterpillars. Only, these questions are slightly different (they’ve been through metamorphosis, if you will) and they’re in reverse order:
- Why did God create this stinging human? Why did He put this person in my life?
- What could this stinging human turn into? In other words, what would it look like if this person experienced the grace I’ve experienced? What’s his or her potential? How can God use him or her?
I also think I’d add a third question (like adding the butterfly’s wings gives in the ability to travel a much greater distance):
- How can I love this stinging human? How can I not squish them with my words, actions, and thoughts?
I think that’s how we take care of these stinging caterpillars…a part of creation I’ve yet to understand.