I just love summer nights. The thick humid air takes me back to my childhood. So many nights were spent out in the backyard swing, enjoying the gentle breeze, cricket sonnets, and that soothing sound of a distant whippoorwill.
Now that I’m a city boy, summer nights are different. The sounds of traffic from both ground and air serve to drown out so many of the songs of nature. And while the dirty air helps produce some amazing sunsets, the bright city lights steal the show from the millions of twinkling stars that I know are still up there — somewhere.
Tonight I enjoyed a walk with my kids. Jackson rode his bike up ahead of me while I pulled Caroline in the red wagon. The air had just begun to cool, and I saw something that took me right back to those summer nights in rural Mississippi: fireflies. Everywhere.
That is, of course, my citified name for them. Don’t let my current living situation and seeming sophistication fool you. Growing up in the South, I came from a largely uncultured family. And I say that proudly. Those glowing insects were not fireflies — they were lightnin’ bugs. And I spent many an evening chasing them, catching them, and trapping them in a Blue Plate mayonnaise jar to use for a makeshift nightlight.
All these years later, lightning bugs still amaze me. Being the constant learner that I am, I took some time to research the little critters — and here are some of the things I discovered:
- Fireflies are a kind of beetle — a rather ordinary insect.
- There are more than 2000 species of fireflies.
- The male fireflies emit a bioluminescence (I know, big word) to attract mates.
- The female fireflies respond with light to males of the same species.
- The female of the Photuris species actually mimics the flashes of other species in order to attract males and eat them! For that reason, they are appropriately referred to as femme fatale fireflies. Gotta love that!
- In tropical southeast Asia, some species of fireflies actually synchronize their flashes. In the United States synchronization is observed in parts of Tennessee and South Carolina in the first weeks of June each year.
While all these knowledge nuggets are interesting to me, the one thing I notice most about fireflies is that they shine because that’s what God created them to do.
Just like Christians.
As believers, we are called to shine. But sometimes we seem to grossly misunderstand. “What was that you wanted us to do, God?”
So many times we don’t shine. We whine. We malign. We opine. But none of these things is an effective substitute for what God created us to do. Jesus is often referred to as the ‘light of the world.’ But He referred to us as that:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV)
In fact, it is His light that we are to be constantly and brilliantly reflecting in everything we do. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just fail miserably. I mean, some days it’s as though my blinker is on the blink. I can become discouraged and begin to whine. I can become offended by something someone says and malign them in return. I can offer my opinion on issues that just don’t matter a whole lot in the big scheme of things. And when I engage in these behaviors, I fail to shine effectively.
I’m guessing I’m probably not alone in this.
Let me share with you five insights on the similarities between Christians and fireflies:
- Just as He does with those humble little beetles, God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
- Just as there are many species of fireflies, there are also many species of Christians. We may not sing the same songs or worship the same way, but Jesus is our Lord and Savior — and that genuine faith experience unifies us as the Church.
- Just as the light of fireflies is attractional, the light of believers should be as well.
- Just as there are man-eating fireflies, there are ‘Christians’ out there who seem to look for any opportunity to devour others. Remember, unlike those particularly cunning fireflies who mimic the light of others, our light should be the real deal.
And finally, one of my favorite insights of all. . .
- Just like those synchronized fireflies, we are capable of working together to have greater impact in a darkened world.
Scientists say that some species of fireflies are greatly dwindling in number. Some sociologists say the same about Christians. How ’bout we prove ’em wrong?!
The next time you see one of those amazing fireflies doing their thing, remember to let your light shine.