Every Fourth of July, around 9pm, I go out to my backyard and lay down on my hammock to watch the show. In my neighborhood, there are several houses that put on elaborate (and, I imagine, expensive) fireworks displays every year. Last night was no different, as red and gold and green and white and blue lit up the night sky for two hours. I love to watch fireworks.
As the twilight’s last gleaming faded yesterday, I noticed, much nearer to me than the fireworks, a smaller light in the darkness. It disappeared. Then, a few feet from where I first saw it, it reappeared. It was a firefly, flitting its way through the yard.
I used to watch fireflies all the time as a kid. How could it be that there were bugs with light-up butts? I loved following their trail as it appeared and disappeared through the tall grass along the alley behind the house. I remember competing with my brother to see who could catch the most. When friends were over at dusk, we’d go outside to follow the fireflies around the yard. Even visiting my great-grandma’s farm, two states away, the adults sat on the old wraparound porch while the kids chased fireflies.
The flickering lights of the fireflies provided hours of entertainment and wonder. All summer long, as the day turned to night, there were fireflies.
Fireflies can hardly compete with fireworks when it comes to the “whoa” factor. Fireworks are brighter, louder, and all-around more attention-grabbing. Despite this, it’s fireflies that fill the memories of my childhood twilights. Fireflies are remarkable in their own way. Despite their uniqueness (what other bug glows?), fireflies are a dependable and touchable summertime experience. Anyone who’s patient and attentive enough can catch one. With enough fireflies, they light up the night with their own magic.
Faith, to grow and flourish, needs both big and small nourishment. Both fireworks and fireflies, in other words. We need, occasionally, to have moments or encounters with God that leave us in complete awe– perhaps in the form of attending a youth gathering, jamming at a concert by your favorite Christian musician, spending a week at church camp, or some other mountaintop experience. But that kind of high isn’t sustainable all the time any more than having fireworks every night would be sustainable.
In our lives of faith, we also need the small, everyday, flickering lights like those fireflies that defined my childhood summers. We need weekly worship, daily prayer, encouragement from our fellow pilgrims, regular service to our neighbors, correction when we sin, and forgiveness when we repent. These things might not be awe-inspiring every time. They might not make us gasp in wonder. But when they all shine together? They are just as captivating as a sky full of fireflies to a child.
God graciously gives us both big and small experiences, both fireworks and fireflies to light our way. We should be careful to attend to the small, everyday things of faith, so that we are nourished and enlightened until the next fireworks light up the sky.