Of Weeds and Scorpions

Recently Young Mom was writing about her daughter’s love for dandelions and how an elderly neighbor did her best to quash that love, to destroy that joy.

This morning in the car I was recounting that story to Dom, incredulous. How can anyone so ruthlessly crush that kind of sweet innocent love?

And I gazed at the dandelions lining the road and rhapsodized to Dom about the happy bright yellow of them, one of the welcome colors the signals spring after a long, snowy winter. Oh how I love their cheerful yellow faces! I understand why they are weeds, why people want to eradicate them from their nice, neat lawns. But I cannot join their ranks. I love them too much. I adore the dandelions my girls bring me all spring and summer and into the fall. They really are quite lovely when you get right into their faces and look at them. And really God poured as much love into making them as he did any other flower.

And then Dom, the breath of cool air damping my warm glow, reminds me that God also made scorpions. Ah yes, scorpions. What are we to make of the scorpion and other nasty creatures that God makes?

Suddenly it occurred to me that the scorpion is kind of necessary in a fallen world to help us understand what sin is. If the natural world was all daisies and bluebirds how on earth would we find the proper images and metaphors for what sin does to us? We need the scorpion, the fire ant, the mosquito, the stinkbug to be an image of the harm that sin does.

I’ve had trouble before understanding how and why man’s sin broke the whole universe. Why should our disobedience and death cause pain and death in the natural world? But if our faith is incarnational, if all of creation tells the story of the glory of God, then doesn’t it make sense that it also tells the story of our rupture with God, of the way our sin twists and bends the image of God until it is harmful? The scorpion is sin made manifest, taken out of the secret place in the human heart and given form. Jesus used the natural world to teach us about our relationship with God. We need to have weeds to understand the parable of the wheat and weeds. So perhaps also we need the vicious bugs and nasty crawling things of the earth to understand a parable that Jesus didn’t articulate but which nature can spin on her own. Perhaps the heavens proclaim the glory of God but the shark and the Portuguese man o’war tell the story of the fall.

I’m reaching here and am not sure I’ve exactly caught the thought or what a theologian would say. But I think it’s at least a poetic truth if not a theological one. I know this is certain: to destroy a child’s joy—whether out of spite or willful blindness—is to be a scorpion, stinging the innocent foot as it seeks shelter in a sparkly shoe.

5 Responses to Of Weeds and Scorpions

  1. Katherine May 1, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    I’m still slowly working through Dubay’s Fire Within. It is/was my Lenten reading. Something about having a baby and then getting sick slowed me down. It is a very good book, but sometimes quite thick and heavy. I also read Fr. Donald Calloway’s No Turning Back and Shaw’s Pygmalion.

    I really wanted to pick up a good Marian book for May, but, honestly, I’m drawing a blank. Any suggestions?

  2. Kathryn May 1, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    The Warmth of the Heart Prevents your Body from Rusting, by Marie de Hennezel – a book about ageing which I bought because I saw an enthusiastic review, and thought it may be helpful as my 83 year old mother grows older and more frail. Absolutely hating it, but it is short so I ploughed on in the hope it would get better – it hasn’t, so I may just skim the last third, or give up completely. Too much other interesting stuff on my Kindle wish list!

  3. Kathy May 1, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    I just started Scott Hahn’s new book, Signs of Life.  He talks about Catholic customs and their roots.  I’m not far enough in to know whether I recommend it, but I’m hopeful.

    For fun I was reading a young adult series by Ted Dekker.  It’s actually several intertwined series.  It’s a fair to middling attempt at the kind of allegory of Narnia.  I found the first two books rather boring, as it wasn’t really until the third that I feel like I figured out what was going on.

  4. scotch meg May 2, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    I finished the Percy Jackson series because I taught a coop class on the first one and liked it.  Didn’t like the others as much as “The Lightning Thief”.  I also just finished Cardinal Dulles’ book on Bl. J.H. Newman, which I thought was a biography but turned out to be more of a theological work.  Glad I made the mistake – it was good!  I am beginning “Landscape with Dragons” with some trepidation – I don’t agree with what I’ve read by O’Brien on children’s literature.  I am also about to begin “The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God” which is a book of letters by my late, beloved friend, Ruth Pakaluk.  And I think my book group is going to read “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  I also have to keep up with my high school lit group’s reading, so May will be busy for me.  I will miss the middle of the night reading/nursing time this month.

  5. Jeff Miller May 1, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    I loved the Brothers Karmazov since it takes spiritual themes seriously and has much to expouse on the subject.  The interplay between faith and atheism and Karmazov famous and accurate line on the results of atheist belief that all is permisible makes it a great read.  Though I think what you say about re-reading it for comprehension is accurate – but that is true with any deeper book.

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