MAY 1, 2006

Mayflies and You
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Mayflies are found all over the world, and there are over 2500 species of them. All of them have one specialization in common—the adults live only long enough to reproduce.

The larval stage of mayflies is quite long, up to several years. During this time they just lay in the sand of a stream bed and nibble on tiny algae. They grow and go through several molts.

At the same time each year, all the mature mayfly larvae of a given species in one location change into adulthood at the same time. The males emerge first. They float to the surface of the stream and molt into adults with wings. If the fish or the birds don’t gobble them up, they fly to a nearby tree or reed, where they molt again into their final mating form.

The males are equipped with strong wings and effective sex organs—but they have no mouths or stomachs. They can’t eat. They must live off the fat in their little bodies. The energy from this fat will last for about a half-hour! That’s all the time they have to fly back to the stream surface, where the females are now emerging, dodge the fish and birds, fight off other males, mate with a female, then die from total exhaustion.

The females get to live only a little longer. They fly upstream just far enough so that their eggs can float downstream to this same spot before they hatch into the next generation of algae-eating larvae.

Some life, huh?

Some humans seem to think that’s what their life is all about. They can hardly wait to reach maturity so that they can indulge their appetites. Hormones seem to drive them to risk all kinds of dangers to accomplish their sexual goals and reach their fulfillment as adult human beings.

The trouble is, humans are not made like mayflies. Their sexual peak may be reached before they’re twenty (although that’s debatable!), but they are designed to live much longer. Partly, this seems to be intended for the development of family life, since human babies take lots more care than mayfly babies. But human life can go far beyond the family-raising years, maybe even another forty or fifty years beyond that.

Human adults, you see, are much more than machines for reproduction. They are designed to do that and much, much more. The much, much more has to do with the fact that humans have been uniquely created in the image of God. So it is our destiny to demonstrate to the rest of creation what God is like—his thoughts, his purposes, his creativity, his love.

In fact, the later half of our lives is the best time for us to express the image of God, no longer (hopefully) driven by the immediacy of sexual and other animal impulses, no longer encumbered by the pressing responsibilities of raising and providing for a family. Later adulthood is the ideal time to explore and express what it means to be persons in the image of God.

So those of you who are looking at life from that side, stop envying the young. You’re in your prime right now. You are now ready to be the person God created you to be.

Or would you rather be a mayfly?