The Cousin of a Cockroach

“. . . too mysterious . . .”

There are four things that are too mysterious for me to understand: an eagle flying in the sky, a snake moving on a rock, a ship finding its way over the sea, and a man and a woman falling in love.” (Proverbs 30:18-19)
I remember as a young boy spending hours chasing grasshoppers.  They hid in the weeds and were pretty hard to catch.  Just as I was ready to spring my trap they’d jump or fly, making their escape and extending the game.  For me they were mysterious creatures that were fun to follow and study.  Every once in awhile my friends and I would also come upon a praying mantis.  They seemed like a relative to the grasshoppers but were much easier to catch.  Their habit of pulling their fore legs up in an almost “praying position” give them their name and even more of an air of mystery. We were taught that the praying mantis deserved respect because they were rare and actually helped eat other, more harmful bugs.  (I wonder if we would have been quite so respectful had we known that the praying mantis is not related to the grasshopper, but rather, the cockroach?)

When Patti saw this photo she said, “It looks like you’ve got him laid out,” meaning I had him prepared for burial.  “Actually,” I replied, “I guess that’s what it was.”  I found him on our front porch Monday as I was leaving.  I was in a hurry so I almost didn’t stop.  The praying mantis was sitting in the shade right-side-up.  He wasn’t moving, so I wondered if I could pick him up and get a photo.  He didn’t resist when I reached for him so I cradled him in my hand, stepped into the sunlight, and took some photos.  When the sunlight hit him he responded with what must have been his last bit of life energy by vibrating his back legs.  Then he stopped.  I put him gently on a warm brick and left.  He never moved again.

I know some will think I’m crazy, but in that moment I stood holding the dying praying mantis, I was caught up in the mystery and wonder of God’s sacred creation.  I was a wide-eyed child of God feeling like I was being allowed to join a most holy of moments.  It was a strange yet familiar feeling that I always cherish when God offers it.  For a moment there was nothing to examine and nothing to explain.  I could only give myself to the moment and exclaim, “Thanks be to God!”

So maybe I am crazy because I stop to wonder with the cousin of a cockroach – or maybe I’ve found something that I hope you will also experience.  I have found the mysterious power of our God at work in so many wondrous ways, especially in the love God shares with us through Christ, and the way we get to share that love with one another.  I pray that God will give me the privilege of more wondrous moments so I can offer them to others.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit
My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and
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~ by revgenelson on September 10, 2014.

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