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Cicadas sing after seventeen years in hiding: Why a shift in perspective could make all the difference

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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A lone cicada on a white background
© Eric Isselée/stock.adobe.com

Depending on where you live, the song of the cicada can be a staple of summer. For much of the country, though, encountering these rare insects is a less frequent occurrence. 

You see, how long a cicada stays dormant in the ground before emerging varies depending on its species. 

And, as Jesus Jimenez writes for The New York Times, the day is fast approaching for people from Georgia up through New York and as far west as Illinois to welcome billions of these bugs for the first time in seventeen years. 

Despite the long period of dormancy, however, this particular variety of cicada will only be around for about four to six weeks—just long enough to procreate and ensure the next generation gets started on their seventeen-year dormancy to keep the line moving.

But while their stay may be short-lived, they will be sure to make their presence felt. 

Once the ground gets warm enough, they will ascend to the surface and congregate in groups so large that their cacophonous singing can reach up to ninety decibels, comparable to a revved-up motorcycle. 

As a result, those fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on your perspective) to be near them are unlikely to forget the experience any time soon.

“A blip in the timeline of history”

In a way, our lives on this earth are similar to that of the cicadas. 

Consider all that’s happened in the last seventeen years:

  • Five presidential elections
  • A global pandemic
  • The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (Maybe that’s slightly less historic.)

While we may look at everything that’s happened and feel overwhelmed by all that has occurred, it’s little more than a blip from the perspective of history. 

And while some of these events will likely be remembered long after we’re gone, much of what can seem so important today will matter little in a hundred years. 

That perspective is significant for two primary reasons. 

First, an eternal perspective can help us approach the news of the day from a better point of view. 

It’s the media’s job to make every story seem as if it will define the future and shape humanity going forward, and they’re usually pretty good at doing so. 

The reality is that what often matters most of what we see or read on a daily basis will be replaced by the next story within a week. 

Now, that doesn’t mean a story isn’t important or that we should ignore what’s going on around us. But it does mean that we’re often better off taking a broader view when it comes to the landscape of current events and pay more attention to the aspects that can make an eternal difference than the ones that seem most important now. 

We should ask God what he wants us to glean and let that be the lens by which we evaluate everything else. When we do, we’ll find ourselves less likely to get distressed or overwhelmed and instead be better able to see how God is working in any given situation to redeem the bad and advance his kingdom.

Second, an eternal perspective on current events helps us better work alongside God to make the most of the time we have. 

While our lives may be a blip on the timeline of history, that doesn’t make them insignificant. Rather, if we are able to recognize where the Lord is working around us and be intentional about joining him in those efforts, then we can make our presence felt in a way that leaves a mark on the world long after we’re gone. 

And even if it’s a mark that only God sees and appreciates, nothing will matter more when we’re finally standing in his presence. 

So the next time you hear a cicada chirping outside your window or see their strange little shells clinging to a tree, let it serve as a reminder that the significance of your life has far more to do with how many days we lived for God than how many days we lived. 

How significant will you be today?