If you’ve spent any time outside the last couple weeks you’ve been under attack by some atrocious aphids, at least that’s what the experts are calling them. I thought they were gnats but upon closer investigation, they’re actually plant lice. That’s sounds even worse than gnats. These prolific reproducers are everywhere, causing havoc and giving people the “heebie-jeebies.”
As I pondered these pesky pests and wondered how they were getting in through the screens in our house, and then dive-bombing into my ears, my mind went to three different passages in the Bible that point to some lessons we can learn from the attack of the aphids.
1. Small problems can make a big mess. In any relationship, you are going to have some ruptures. There will be misunderstandings and misery but much of this can be avoided by giving attention to the small things before they become big problems. In the Song of Songs, a book in the Bible that has been referred to as a marriage manual; we read these words in 2:15: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Vineyards were often surrounded by stone walls to keep the animals from destroying the grapes. But invariably, little cracks and crevices would appear and little foxes would weasel their way in and gnaw on the tender vines. We don’t know what Mr. and Mrs. Solomon were struggling with but they needed to deal with their diminutive troubles before they became destructive.
The word “catch” means to “seize” or lay hold of. We can’t be passive when puny problems arise, hoping they’ll go away on their own. Observe also that these are “little foxes” and they don’t ruin the thick branches that have been growing for years but the new “vineyards that are in bloom.”
Most of the things that cause division and distance in a relationship start out as small problems. In a study called “Social Allergies in Romantic Relationships,” researchers found that “Irritating behavior becomes more irksome over time.” Marlene Pritchard discovered that there’s a name for this. It’s called MAD – Minor Annoyance Disorder: “Some of us have MAD marriages that may become bad marriages if we don’t do something about it.”
Are you allowing the little things in life to bug you so much that they’ve now turned into big problems?
2. If you focus too much on small things you can miss the big things. Because these aphids have been almost omnipresent, it’s really tough to find a place of refuge. The other day I noticed that our dog’s water bowl was filled with aphid cadavers and so I threw the water out and started to fill the bowl again. By the time I was done there were about twenty more aphids in it! I left our dog Charlie outside and ran into the house. Sorry, Charlie.
Jesus spent quite a bit of time telling some religious hypocrites that they were focused on way too many small things because they majored on the minors. In the process, they left out the larger things. Here’s what He said in Matthew 23:24: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” These self-righteous guys would use a filter to keep the insects out of their water bowls but in the process that would end up ingesting a camel (who says the Bible doesn’t use humor to make a point?).
Some of us are so caught up in the little things that we don’t take the time to ponder the big questions of life. Questions like, “Am I ready to die?” “Am I living the way I should?” “Can God really forgive me for what I’ve done?”
3. God uses irritations to get our attention. While the aphids are a huge annoyance, they’ll hopefully go away once it gets colder. Have you ever stopped to consider that God uses the irritations, troubles and trials of life to get your attention?
When God sent the 10 plagues on Pharaoh and Egypt, they came one right after another: blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock dying, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and finally the death of the firstborn. While the aphids are awful, they were nothing like the gnats unleashed in Egypt: “…Gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.” (Exodus 8:17).
We see a pattern that develops with Pharaoh. When the plague hits hard, he repents and asks for deliverance, and then his heart becomes hard again. When the pain is too much to bear, he admits that he’s a sinner and that he will change. But, when the problem goes away, his repentance evaporates too. In Exodus 9:34, Moses prays, and God stops the hail. And then we read these words: “When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.”
Some of us do this as well. When things are tough, we come back to church; when things are better we sleep in. When life is falling apart, we cry out to the Lord for help; when life is good, we forget about Him. Pharaoh didn’t really repent; he was just doing pain control.
What has God been doing to get your attention? Will you turn to Him in faith and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?
I don’t know how long the aphids will attack but I sure want to learn what I need to before the approaching ladybugs make us all livid.