They welcomed us in great numbers when we arrived in August, 1988. Throughout the fall they kept coming, sometimes pestering us to the point that we wondered whether we would ever be rid of their nuisance. Even in January they kept moving, popping up at odd times and places, such as on my collar during a children’s sermon at a Sunday morning service. If I had been quick-witted, I would have turned that moment into an object lesson on persistence. When winter came in its fullness of ice and snow, they still persisted, although I saw only one every day or so. Boxelder bugs.
As a child I became acquainted with them. They were more numerous and lasted longer than lightning bugs, so when it was no longer possible to collect the more illuminating lightning bugs, I turned my acquisitive attention to boxelders, seemingly harmless, and only slightly stinky, but certainly persistent and ubiquitous. The worst weather in heat and dryness brought out the best in them, but they made themselves known even in cold and icy times in the warm comfort of the house. In Burlington the bugs had occupied the soft maple trees that grew along the berm immediately north of our house. On the farm they had occupied the namesake boxelder trees that grew along the river bank not far from the house. In both cases they moved inside when they decided the conditions were better there. For whatever reason the bugs left our Burlington house the next spring and have never returned.
I want such long-lasting determination, such unexpected perseverance, for my faith. When I am caught in mundane, day-to-day tasks that seem to drag on endlessly, I need the unexpected reappearances of joy and surprise that persist in spite of all I do to suppress them or tame them or forget about them. When I am overcome by the scale of problems that seem insurmountable, I need the confident will to see a victory that gives meaning to my feeble and uncertain movements. Sometimes such faith does appear in solitary heroic figures battling all odds. Sometimes such faith comes in masses of individuals filling every corner and space with their relentless march of life conquering death. Even such lowly creatures as the boxelder bug encourage us by the nuisance of their example.