I was about five years old, standing on the back porch of my grandparents’ home on old Leitchfield Road. It was early summer, just at dusk. As I looked across a small meadow toward the small fishing pond and then back towards the garden, my eyes saw tiny flickers of light in the air. There were thousands of them, well beyond my
kindergarten counting abilities, so many that for instants I could see the shadowed outline of my grandmother’s outdoor dinner bell behind them
It was a mesmerizing sight, an overture to wonder that I had neither words nor experience to describe.
It was a graceful ballet between light and dark.
…a complex semaphore of wordless joy.
…a take-your-breath-away surprise.
…the best game of hide-and-seek ever.
I was intrigued. Delighted. Overwhelmed.
And it only got better when my dad and grandfather taught me how to catch the firefly in my cupped hands without crushing it, so I could watch the glow through my fingers
before I let it fly free again.
That moment is one of the most precious memories of my childhood. It is also one of the most potent imprints of my Kentucky identity.
Why has that moment stuck with me when so many others fade? One reason is the sheer uniqueness of that moment. To this day, I have never seen as many fireflies at one time as I did that night.
There was the simple power of being loved by two men willing to be a child again with me, for me.
This was reckless and profligate beauty, and beauty has a way of lingering.
And through the multiplied incandescent glows of a tiny insect’s tail, my small self suddenly felt smaller and the world larger.
Uniqueness. Love. Lingering beauty. Small self, larger world.
In other words, that early summer evening in Kentucky made me witness to Glory. “For His invisible attributes, namely, [God’s] eternal power and divine nature, have
been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Rom. 1:20)
That’s more than a mere theological construct. It’s what I need to remember who I am. There’s a big God—and I am not Him.
The God of glory is sovereign over the universe and leaves hints of His majesty everywhere. It’s on display in massive things like stars and planets, or the sweep of human history, or the beauty of Himalayan peaks. And it’s in small things like daisies, and three-weeks-past-conception babies, and sweet iced tea on a hot day.
Fireflies illuminate Glory.
The longer I live, the more convinced I am that God has designed the world so that the one crucial beauty – His– shines through seemingly insignificant things.
It happens in everyday blessings and ordinary joys, but in its highest expression, consider the gospel of Jesus. God’s kindness and rescuing mercy comes to rebels like me who are “not wise by worldly standards…powerful…of noble birth…weak” (1 Cor. 1:26-27) What happens to these unlikely candidates? “For God who said, ‘Let light
shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor. 4:6-7)
In other words, I am a firefly.
But the world’s darkness is aggressive and intense, often at best indifferent to God. “…be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16a)
I am a firefly illuminating God’s glory in the dark.
But in the big scheme of things, fireflies are so small. I am small in the world—and so much more aware of just how small than when I was five.
Here’s the thing. A tiny light can chase a lot of dark. I have a small light, but it’s not my light. It’s Jesus’ light of the world. So when John said of Jesus, “He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) he revealed this paradox: the smaller I get by trusting and prioritizing Jesus, the more His light shines bright through me.
I am a firefly shining Jesus’ beautiful light in the big, dark world.
So, when this season comes around, I like to find a meadow at dusk and watch fireflies for a minute. It slows my heartbeat and immerses me in quiet. And even if there’s only a few flickering lights, it’s still a mesmerizing dance and a wordless delight.