We recently moved Eastward and on a warm evening, on the humid brink of summer, I had my first encounter with fireflies (they were nothing more than an unknown critter to a Washingtonian such as myself until this year). I know the facts of bioluminescence that makes each oxygen-fueled spark, but it doesn’t reduce the mystery of a darkening sky dancing with tiny, living lanterns calling to one another with a
My new favorite evening activity is sitting out and watching fireflies emerge. As I watch them, glowing brighter as the night grows darker, I think of this world that often feels like it’s bleeding darkness so heavy it could pull the earth from its orbit; but I also think of a light that shines, not by bioluminescence, but by the One who put us in orbit to begin with. Really, fireflies remind me of Christians, blinking the true Light to one another, keeping light shining even as the world around us grows hopelessly dark.
As Karl Barth wrote,
The world is in a bad way, but we mustn’t let the light go out at any cost.
He wrote these words in a letter to Dietrich Bonhoeffer as the Third Reich rose to power in Germany. He anticipated the destruction that was looming like the bruising of the sky at dusk. The light Barth refers to is the light of the knowledge of the person of Christ, and the responsibility of Christians to keep shining it at all costs. Even as dusk settled in Germany, with a bloody war in its fledgling state and human smoke billowing over a country that was consumed in violence and apathy, Barth and Bonhoeffer knew the Light of Christ, hoped in him, and knew it was their life-purpose to share him with Germany, even in her resistance.
The thing is, the more we remind one another and the world around us what Christ has done for us—the brow scarred by a mocking, thorny crown; the thirsty lips that cried “forgive them, they know not what they do”; the hands pinned fast; the last breath breathed; and the hope of an empty tomb—the brighter the night becomes. Because even as the world darkens with endless wars, homeless refugees, pre-born infants murdered, souls trafficked for their bodies, animosity over skin color, and the whole earth bubbling with hatred, even then there is a pinprick of light with a
flash as a voice rises over the din of hatred singing,
See from His head, His hands his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
flash as a pleading prayer is offered up on behalf of the suffering
flicker as a body rises from the baptismal waters with a jubilant smile celebrating new life
flash as brows sweat and muscles ache and a widow’s house is built for her by those who have no other vested interest than love
flash as a congregation recites words breathed by the Spirit of God printed on the thin pages of their bibles
flicker as men and women stand as family with their skin in varied shades and their differing languages mixing together in a song of worship to the God who calls them to himself
Just like fireflies, when enough are gathered, their intermittent lights blink together bringing the whole sky alive with light and beauty, so too Christians bring life and light to the darkness around them as we speak and live the truth of what Christ has done for us.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
We have this promise, that Light will shine in darkness, that Christ is there even in the midst of the deepest suffering and most painful circumstances; and no matter how dark, it will never overcome him, because Christ has already overcome the greatest darkness of the world: that ugliness in our own hearts that tries to shirk away from the Light that heals. And in the meantime, while we wait for the day when he will light up the horizon with himself, making the sun look like a mere flame, until then we will keep blinking our firefly-lights to one another and the rest of the world.
As Bonhoeffer says,
The Church is the hidden Christ among us.
Until Christ comes back in the flesh—in all his brilliance—we are his presence to the world: his hands, feet, lips and light.
The world seems like it is growing darker, but we have to remember, as Victor Hugo says,
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
In these darkest of nights we can keep shining because we know the Son already rose.
So, let’s keep blinking, firefly Christians. Let us show the world the beauty and mystery of light shining in the darkness, powered by hope in the God who bled for us and holds our numbered days in his perfect, scarred hands, because one day our weak blinking lights won’t be visible anymore because we’ll be flooded with his perfect, unceasing light and it will never be dark again.