“Look Pawpaw…its butt lights up!”
That’s exactly what you’d expect to hear from a 5-year-old seeing fireflies for the first time in his young life.
Mikey was mesmerized by the bioluminescent glow of the lightning bugs all around us as we waited for the 4th of July fireworks to come streaming off the hilltop in McCaysville, the tiny town on the Tennessee-Georgia border that was the site of our annual vacation to a mountain cabin.
This particular region is one of only two worldwide where the lightning bugs flash in a synchronized sparkle–so many of them lighting up at the same time. A true spectacle of wonder when all of them let ‘er rip at once.
We were fortunate to be there as people came out of the mountains from all directions and converged under the stars to celebrate Independence Day. But it seemed our youngest grandson was captured more by the light show of these little bugs than the flash-bang of the fireworks just above us.
I hold tight to the memories of those moments for two reasons.
First, just the sheer joy of watching our grandsons unearth and experience all kinds of new things–from fried pies to train rides to family reunions. Watching these guys “first-timing” so many things was far greater joy to us than to them.
But those moments–and Mikey’s fascination with fireflies–were also a God-moment for me. It was one more time in my life when my approach to and appraisal of God’s nature and character realigned.
This particular theological reformation came to a head with this question:
Maybe that sounds trite to you, but it once again challenged my limited and limiting view of who and how God is.
Very often I slip into the distorted view of God as:
- Distant Architect–so concerned to shape and watch over what He has made that with furrowed brow He frets over the condition of the earth and conduct of man.
- Cosmic CEO–so interested in producing results and furthering goals that He has no time to waste on simply enjoying His wonders or relating to His people.
- Universal Judge–so hell-bent on setting things right that He is seriously pre-occupied with getting the docket of eternal justice cleared and has no patience for things of lesser importance.
- Eternal Book-keeper–so distracted by crunching numbers and keeping score that He has no interest in the simple occupations of the daily grind in life under the sun.
These easily applied characterizations of God co-opt His identity and form Him into a sad parody of His real self. No doubt this God who is Alpha and Omega–the beginning and end of all things–has within His vast nature aspects of control, oversight, justice and responsibility. But I am not sure they look at all like the inferior traits they become when poorly exhibited in frail humans.
Above and encircling all else He is, God is love. That is His primary identity. Everything else in the immensity of His character is formed from that one thing. His love, while it does many things, primarily defines and celebrates the object of His affection. His love pours meaning and significance into the ones upon whom its devotion and adoration falls.
You and me.
Before the worlds were framed, within the counsel of the Trinity existed a perfect love so real and relational as to be lacking nothing. Completely transparent, utterly committed, absolutely flawless and entirely sacrificial.
This fiery, passionate love was so good that God wanted to expand it by creating in His image others who could enter, experience and enjoy that love. So He made man–male and female–and set them in a perfect Garden designed as a home where they could constantly walk with Him in that love.
And in that Garden, He put light on a bug’s butt.
So men and women, boys and girls for millennia would sense the wonder little Mikey did when he saw this crazy thing God had done.
You see, our Father created out of love. While He made this earth with an intelligent and interdependent design, He also put beauty in it for the sheer sake of the pleasure that beauty brings to the ones He created within it. He is not all utilitarian and serious…He made many seemingly frivolous things just for the sake of the joy they bring.
Reveling in this joyful and artistic Creator, the Psalmist records these words:
“What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations. Oh, look—the deep, wide sea, brimming with fish past counting, sardines and sharks and salmon. Ships plow those waters, and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.” (Psalm 104:25-26) One translation renders that last phrase: “here swims the whale you made to play in it.” (NET)
He made the seas and then put great sea creatures in them simply to “frolic”!
To understand the Creator and Ruler of all this ever expanding universe, we have to see that He is not a stodgy, pious, smug and judgmental God who is simply interested in results and returns.
Our God is a playful God who laughs in the fullness of His own divine providence and smiles at the beauty and bounty of His own creativity.
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) Out of his passionate desire He made everything…including fireflies!
He is light to a darkened world. He unveils the majesty of His plan, the grandeur of His purpose and the splendor of His passion so that our eyes can see, perhaps for the first time, just what a wonderful Maker we have.
Worship leader, Chris Tomlin, captured this idea in these lyrics:
You spread out the skies over empty space
Said “let there be light”
Into a dark and formless world Your light
What a wonderful Maker
What a wonderful Savior
How majestic Your whispers
How humble Your love
So Mikey’s awe-struck amazement over the lightning bugs served as a powerful reminder to me of the lovingly playful nature of our Father-Creator. My grandson turned on a light for me.
A light from a bug’s butt.