Of Weeds and Scorpions

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.

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