February 1, 2013

Consider the Dung Beetle

If ever there was a parable waiting to be told, the dung beetle would be it. They live the ultimate life of quiet desperation, a life spent shuttling balls of dung away from other dung beetles anxious to steal what will eventually be the birthplace of the next generation of dung beetles.

What could be further from God's thoughts than a beetle that dines almost exclusively on dung? What job could be dirtier than foraging for dung? What birth place could be more humble than the interior of a dung ball? What thief could be lower than a dung thief?

But God does listen to the dung beetle's prayers. The dung beetle needs to navigate his hard-earned dung ball away from other thieving dung beetles as rapidly as possible. After a few million years of practice, the dung beetles have learned to roll their dung balls to safety in a line as mysteriously straight as the Nazca lines that criss-cross miles of the Peruvian high plains.

The dung beetle pursues his straight and narrow path using patterns of sunlight and moonlight unseen by our eyes. But what about nights when there is no moon? What then? God pondered the question and gave them an answer. Look skyward, dung beetle, and gaze upon the galaxy arcing across the sky. That will guide you in a straight line to safety.

And so the dung beetle became a celestial navigator, using the Milky Way to keep it on course as it scuttles along with its dung ball to safety. As a wise friend of mine says, "Where there's a need, there's a way." In this case, the Milky Way.

If you believe God is in the details, then I suppose one must take a degree of comfort from a divine plan that has time to lend a hand to the hapless dung beetle. And if there is room for the dung beetle in God's plan, is there also a navigational tool to keep us poor humans on the straight and narrow as we busily roll our dung balls through dark, moonless nights to whatever fate awaits? I'd like to think so. I really would.

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