Friday, July 30, 2010

Pondering the Divine Mystery of the Mosquito

I am due to make a blood donation to the Community Blood Center, but have been reluctant to call because I am currently donating about a pint a week to the mosquitoes. Worse, when I am finished making my donation to the mosquitoes they never offer me a cookie and a cup of juice.

In what is possibly the worst summer for mosquitoes (well, actually for me – the mosquitoes themselves appear to be having a very good summer) I have ever experienced, it is only natural to question the judgment of the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth. God made all living things, the Good Book tells us, and pronounced each one “good.” This means that responsibility for mosquito bites can be laid squarely at the feet of the Almighty. Were I in charge of creation, I would have taken a pass on biting insects in general.

If I had designed the created order, each day would have a high of 76 degrees and each night the low would dip to 63. Wisconsin, in other words, would be San Diego. Babies would never develop ear infections, children would never step into traffic and be injured or killed, good people would not develop cancer, tornados would not strike trailer parks and there would be no such thing as light beer. My version of created order would likely not work very well in the long haul, but it would certainly be more pleasant. For me.

In theology we call this the problem of theodicy: in this good and beautiful world there will always be natural disasters and human evil. In order to have the rain that grows our crops, we must accept the risk of hurricanes, tornados, hailstorms and all the rest. In giving us the freedom to choose to love God and one another, God accepted the risk that some people would reject that gift and embrace the path of greed, violence and hatred. Without freedom there can be no creation, and with freedom comes risk. And mosquitoes. The wise person slaps his or her leg and still rejoices in the overall goodness of life and beauty of the world.

Jonathan Richman has a song called “Nature’s Mosquito” which goes in part:

Now little mosquito is there not
some reason for you that I just can’t spot?
“Well, there is; well you’re right sir!
God loved me when he made me, that same as he loves you, so
I’m nature’s little mosquito!”

Sometimes it helps me to sing this song when I am swatting and pondering the mystery of creation. And sometimes it does not.

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