There once was a five-year old boy.
It was summertime — and of course — there were fireflies.
Many, many fireflies.
This child, with his mommy and his daddy, spent one summer evening chasing those fireflies…and catching them…and putting them each, one by one, into a tall jar.
Now…there is this jar….like a lantern….filled with maybe twenty or so fireflies.
This classic childhood adventure was then followed by a bath — and bed — and the lantern of fireflies was put on his dresser. There was then a story, a kiss and the door was closed.
It was perhaps thirty minutes later that the boy called out….mommy!
When his mommy opened the door she was greeted by maybe twenty or so fireflies….flying all around his room.
He had opened the jar to let them out.
How is it then, that you gather together twenty little bits of flying light and return them to a jar — or release them into the world?
Yesterday, our twenty-seven year old son texted me, asking “mom, what is it that you are going to write about today?
I am writing, I responded, about darkness. “Wait”, he said. “There is too much of it in the world anyway…why even talk about it”.
“So”, I said, “I can talk about the light.”
Darkness is a scary creation.
It was originally created to be without end, like light. An unlimited creation, if you will. When darkness was created, God saw that if darkness was allowed to be infinite — like light — then the world would destroy itself. And so he created an end to the darkness.
Listen: I have been in darkness. Most of you have. When we are in darkness, it does not feel as though there will be an end, does it?
In the very beginning, when the sun set for the first time, Adam was terrified. Darkness frightened him. It frightens us. It always has. We have believed that we are more in danger at night — we may be, in fact.
But I have heard that God does not withdraw with the setting of the sun.
Perhaps you will not be surprised if I suggest that now, in our world, we are in a time of darkness. The darkening of the light, it is called. Such a time behooves us to lay low, to persevere, to be cautious.
In fact, according to some traditional philosophies, during such a time as this it is considered dangerous to shine too brightly, to show your light. But to be a tiny spark in the small things….this is a way to proceed. We can veil our light, yet still shine.
Perhaps humbly we will have to accept that times are thus. We have a crumbling world…and perhaps the reason for the darkening of the light — the purpose of the darkness — is to precipitate bringing out the light that each of us secretly carries.
Light needs darkness to be seen. A firefly is not visible in the day. A hero does not rise until a villain shows his face.
You may know of the story that when the world was created, God put all the light of the world into vessels…and tasked the angels with carrying them up to heaven. The vessels of light, as it seems — were not light at all — they were actually quite heavy.
The higher and higher they carried the vessels the heavier they became, until at last these vessels slipped from the arms of the angels, falling to earth and shattering into pieces. Millions and millions of pieces.
According to the story, it is our job, in our lifetimes, to bring the sparks of light back together.
We have work to do.
In a book found buried in Egypt in 1945 it says “There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness.” And “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Darkness is — in many ways — an opportunity.
Imagine if you will that we are seeds. We are seeds, planted deep in the ground. Where we are it is safe, it is dark, we are contained. But seeds were not meant to stay in the dark.
Plato wrote, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the Light.”
Unlike the fireflies, we cannot collect the night and put it into a jar. Darkness cannot be removed…it can only be scattered by bringing in light.
By adding light.
How do we add light? Sure…we can march at rallies and sign petitions and make phone calls…but that is not enough. We have to connect with others…with each other. Personally. In person. With kindness. And gently. It has been said that the darkness in the world mirrors the darkness in our hearts.
Sparks — by themselves — separately — will go out.
But a spark joined by another spark — and another — and another, creates a sustaining light.
The period of separating ourselves from others must, necessarily, be over.
In fact, it was Martin Luther King who said “Darkness can’t drive out darkness, only light can do this. Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can do this.”
When you allow yourself to connect with others…there are things that you should expect.
Expect things to be different in your life. Expect to feel afraid — you are walking out of a window into the sky — and when you do — things will feel strange. And you will feel panic.
Almost the same kind of panic, in fact, that a young mother would feel, walking into her son’s room which is now filled with fireflies — in happy chaotic freedom from their jar.
Like taking our first steps…carefully connecting with others and fostering kindness and care.
Brings in light to chase away the darkness.
So again I ask: How is it then, that you gather together twenty little bits of flying light and return them to a jar — or release them into the world?
You gather light, you gather fireflies — one by one — and add them to the jar. One person at a time, one hour, one day at a time. Carefully, deliberately. Sanctifying each and every moment, making every meeting a holy one.
Because each person represents a different face of God.
We can survive this time of darkness. We can get through, with caution, the darkening of the light.
Remember — God does not withdraw with the setting of the sun.
We have the ability — and the care — to put the fireflies back into the jar…and then carefully…to release them into the world.
It will take millions and millions of little sparks to change the things.
As I have written before — and have some of you have heard me say…
We inhale the Divine — and when we exhale, we breathe out stars.