When I was a fat little kid in northern Alabama, the arrival of summer brought with it some very special creatures.
Now you Yankees from up north probably refer to them as “fireflies” (spoken with Thurston Howell the Third’s accent). But down south, they were just “lightning bugs”.
Every year around June, we would stay outside playing to dusk and notice suddenly the yard was starting to sparkle. A twinkle here, a spark there. Then a few minutes later, the lawn is glitteringly alive with hundreds of flashing little bugs. And as the sun was extinguished and darkness took over, their little tails seemed to shine even brighter.
If you were smart, you’d catch them in a clear Mason Jar, with holes poked in the top. The jar would serve as your bedside nightlight that evening, and you’d drift to sleep watching as they magically pulsed with light.
There was another bug that showed up almost at the same time of year. These were fat green beetles we called “June Bugs”. But the June Bugs inspired no wonder in us. All they produced was a low humming noise as they buzzed around a couple of feet from the ground. More irritating really than entertaining.
If you were really creative, you could actually tie a thread onto the June bug’s spindly leg. Then when he tried to fly away, you’d hold the string and they’d spin around midair in a circle. It was like having a tiny, motorized balloon that buzzed. That is, until you accidentally tugged too hard and pulled its leg off.
The June bugs were attracted to the light on my back porch and would buzz around it for a while. Then after a few weeks, I’d find them all floating on the surface of my little inflatable backyard pool…
…this concludes my list of the joys of June bugs.
It seems to me that Christians today are either lightning bugs or June bugs. Some live beautiful lives of service and sacrifice for others, lighting their world with living proof of a loving God. But others, though attracted to the light just like the June bug, do little more than make irritating noise in the name of God.
Case in point: the Preaching Target Lady.
A video was circling the interwebs last week of a rather large and loud southern woman at her local Target, protesting their recent policy change on a social issue. Followed by her children and husband marching behind her (hmm…I thought the men were supposed to lead in these families?), she yelled at the top of her lungs about the evils of Target and how parents were putting their kids at spiritual peril by shopping with them there.
With Bible lifted high, she paraded through like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float run amok. As her crew finally exited the store, her husband screamed out something about the judgment of God being on the department store.
I didn’t realize God shopped at Target, but I’m sure the store will be sad to lose His business.
My question is this: is this an example of how we should be trying to obey Jesus words in Matthew chapter five and be a “light to the world”? By taking this kind of stand, will we change the world for the better? And are those of us who remain silent really compromising and not taking the stand for God we should?
For me, it all comes down to entomology. Christians like this aren’t lightning bugs illuminating the darkness. They’re just June bugs, buzzing around the light, making nothing but noise.
I’ll admit, there are times I’d like to do some protest marches myself. It seems the only way to get the world’s attention is by using the world’s angry methods. When it comes to changing the world, oftentimes I feel insignificant.
I see all the things wrong in our world and I think “What the heck difference does it make what I do?”
For instance: we’re foster parents, and we get so frustrated with all the people who could be helping these children that won’t. We get calls every other week asking us if we can take another child. Some family’s decided it’s too much for them, and they need to replace the child at a new home. My wife and I look around our house, with four babies downstairs and three teenagers upstairs and know we’re full.
Our little contribution seems like so little when compared to the huge need. And it makes us mad that so many Christians talk big about saving the world, but won’t lift a finger to actually do it.
That’s when God reminds me to get over myself. He doesn’t expect me to be Superman and fix everything. He simply wants me to do my part and do what I can. But that’s how Satan discourages us: he makes us think what we’re doing doesn’t matter…
…Satan tries to make our light seem so small.
Every June in the Smoky Mountains National Park, people flock to one area hidden back in the hills. Something occurs there that hasn’t been found anywhere else. The lightning bugs all mature and start to shine, trying to attract a mate just like they did at my house as a child. Except here in this one magical spot, something amazing happens…
They all shine together at once, in unison.
The pulsing lights somehow synchronize and instead of just producing tiny dots of light, these amazing little beetles somehow coordinate their pulsing into one huge symphony of light.
Isn’t that just like our Creator God, leaving little surprises like that in nature for His children to stumble onto!
When you get frustrated at the smallness of your light – your circle, your influence, your importance – remember God hasn’t called you to fix the problems alone. He’s call each of us simply to do our parts, and to shine with the light we’ve been given.
And when we all shine together, that’s when the magic happens and lives are changed. And the change in all those lives is what will change the world.
Lightning bugs and June bugs have a lot in common. They’re both beetles who mature about the same time each year, and they both have very short lifespans. The difference is in what they produce.
Today, it’s your choice. You can join with me and do your part, shining your love into an increasingly dark world and trust that God will gather all our light together into something that will warm hearts and illuminate the night.
Or like so many other Christians, you can just gripe about how dark it is and do nothing. But in the end, all that buzzing will just be a bunch of noise.