From the first day that we moved in to our new home in Maun, there was a locust on the gate. It always sat in roughly the same spot, right above the lock, only switching the side on which it was sitting. Oddly, it was usually sitting right where my hands needed to go to open or close the lock. This often earned it a gentle swat, just to keep a clear path for my hands to move. After a few days of swatting, I began to wonder why my swats weren't driving it away altogether. Rather, it still sat, looking up at me with it's off-center, googly eyes.
I didn't give it too much thought; I had bigger bugs to fry. You see, we found this house at the very last minute, just one week before we ran out of other people's homes to housesit for, after bouncing from one housesitting gig to the next here in Botswana since September 2007. We really felt like this was God, acting on our behalf, in the nick of time. But now, living in our first place in more than 2 years which was only ours, we found that we were paying all the rent but sharing the space… with termites. My heart kind of took a nosedive. After all this time without a house, after sensing that God was behind the new house, why were we getting stuck with wood-eating bugs? It was starting to seem like we could never receive anything that would be complete, that every gift would come with a little bit of rot, something to take the edge off the joy such a gift should bring. Beautiful office space to do translation work with Sarah? Cobra! Exciting new liturgy recording in Gaborone? Bakkie breakdown! Finally, a place to live? Termites! I could see the pattern; what I couldn't see was the purpose behind it.
Anyway, after a few weeks, the regularity of the locust punched through the funk. The sense that there was more to this locust that met the eye was suddenly heightened on the day that I came home and, lo and behold, there was an armored cricket on the gate now, along with the locust. Suddenly, I remembered the Pereq Shira.
The Pereq Shira is a Jewish devotional device, using animals and other parts of creation as mnemonics for segments of Scripture. I found out about it during the rat problem we had in Gabane while doing research on natural ways of getting rid of rats. I came across a woman's story of how she had a rat she couldn't get rid of until her rabbi asked her, “And what does the Rat say?” The general idea is that, if you encounter the same animal over and over again, that's God trying to draw your attention to the verse attributed to that animal. The Rat, incidentally, says Psalm 150:6.
So, what does the Locust say?
O Lord, you are my God!
I will exalt you in praise, I will extol your fame.
For you have done extraordinary things,
and executed plans made long ago exactly as you decreed. – Isaiah 25:1 (NET Bible)
Executed plans made long ago exactly as you decreed. Hmmm. According to the NET Bible notes, the Hebrew phrasing is plans from long ago [in] faithfulness, trustworthiness. The Hebrew word for faithfulness is a feminine form, trustworthiness a masculine form. The 2 gender repetition is a Hebrew way of emphasizing that this faithfulness to the plan is absolute, to the letter.
So what does the Eshinee say? That I may see the pattern but I may not see the plan or purpose just yet. That doesn't mean that there is no plan. In fact, I can count on there being a plan. Maybe if I spent more time pointing out the great gifts that God has given me than focusing on the dangly bits that look like plans-gone-wrong, I could relax and enjoy this amazing life I've been given a little bit better.
And the locust? Well, I copied the verse onto a card and put it on the fridge as a daily reminder, to help me internalize this current lesson. And when we got back this week from a cross-country trip, the locust was gone. I haven't seen him since.
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