mike lives in spokane washington and is a pastor at a spirit community called branches

Fireflies and God and Seeing.

Fireflies and God and Seeing.

photo by john flannery

photo by john flannery

I was born and raised in Michigan which meant cars and lakes and recessions and hockey games and snow and grey days and…


Those tiny beetle bugs act as little lanterns that litter and linger in the night sky. Swaying and dancing and appearing and disappearing. 

Fireflies were a part of my formative years. 

I remember nights where I’d chase them around the yard of my house with neighborhood friends. They’d glow for a second and we'd try and clasp them in our cupped hands before they disappeared back into the dark. When their light would fade, another would appear and we’d chase after that one and then it would disappear and then another one somewhere else. Disappear. Another. Disappear… Another…

Then finally we’d catch one and put it in a glass jar with some grass, tighten some seran wrap over the top, poke holes in it, and stick it by the side of our bed. 

Early on in the development of my Christian faith, I had this understanding of God as a term I've heard a guy by the name as Peter Rollins coin "super being." What this means is I saw God as some bigger and better and stronger and mightier version of a superhero. God was something I had clearly contained and whose identification was man and might and masculinity. 

God was against “that” and for “this” and each one of those categories had parameters that made sense and were tangible and clear and defined. God had bounds so that God could be God and evil could be evil and the framework of what one was and the other was could be a place of peace and comfort or a place of restriction and sin. 

I could carry God close to me because I could contain God and I had “him” as this idea that I could hold onto and feel safe with because of the parameters set for him. 

There was no risk or discovery or mystery. God was God and what God was and wasn’t was marked and clear and set.

In the morning after I caught the firefly, I looked over at the mason jar and it was dead. 

Because you can catch a firefly and for awhile it will have the same glow it initially had. But solitude and containment lead the light to fade.

And this is because life needs space to grow and light needs space to expand. 

I think my super God is dead too. Because as hard as I tried to contain whatever “he” was I realized that that wouldn’t and, perhaps more notably, couldn’t work. 

I grew up and I began to see God where God wasn’t “supposed” to be seen. 

I witnessed the love of people in same sex relationships and it seemed more real and alive than the relationships of some of the opposite sex couples I knew. 

I read about other religions and books by the supposed “false teachers” and realized that Christ was perhaps more active in those places than a lot of the church services I went to. 

I listened to a lot of music not labeled “Christian” and realized that God voice and tenor was singing just as loud, if not louder, there. 

God shifted from superman to overarching theme. 

From definition to a way of expression.

From category to uncontainable.

We all need to catch the firefly in the mason jar and let it die to realize how much more beautiful it is for the firefly to exist with space to be and fly and dance with the rest of its kind.

We all need to have a contained and rule based God in order to see just how much that doesn’t work as we enter into and see the true reality and way of this world.

Instead of trying to catch or categorize God, I began to simply let God be. And I began to see this Divine and beautiful insistence dance around me freely. Containment didn’t work anymore. It didn’t have to work anymore.

I was home this summer. My family has a new house that they moved into over Christmas break last year. It sits on top of a ridge. There’s a ton of oaks and maples lining the hillside with a creek down at the bottom. The leaves are so thick above you that the sky is more green than it is blue during the day. 

It was late June and I was sitting out on the back patio with my guitar strumming some basic chords when it began to happen…

The fireflies came out. 

First one. 

And then two. 





Until you couldn’t count them anymore. Not necessarily because of their quantity but because when one firefly illuminated, another one went dark… and another illuminated… and another went dark. 

When it’s dark outside you cant count the number of fireflies there are. The night sky becomes a blank canvas where you can see one appear in one place. Then disappear. And another one appear in another place and disappear. It’s not tangible or quantifiable or definable. It’s simply light existing freely and fluidly. 

They appear in one space. And another. And another. They shine their light anywhere and everywhere at the same time. Seemingly with no set path or direction. But when they illuminate, you know without question that it is a firefly. 

Fireflies outside the mason jar cast light in any place you can imagine. And you don’t question why or how. You just lose you breath in the wonder of it all.

God, when released from our grasp, exists everywhere. And you don’t have to question how, you just simply know. Captivity isn’t sustainable. It doesn’t work with something that is much more thematic than specific. 

God is not superman but superseding. Superseding any category or confines or captivity we house “him” in. God is not gender. God is event. And event can happen in any space at any time and in any context. And event can happen much more freely if we drop the mason jar, and look up on the canvas of our lives, and see the light swirling all around us. 

Once you see the wild nature of the light, you don’t question what it is. You just know. And then you see it appear in another place.

And another.

And another.

And before you know it, it’s all around you. 

“It’s a blessed thing to go free in the light of this world, to see God playing upon everything, as a man would play upon his instrument. His fingers on the lightning and the torrent, on every wave of sea and sky, and every living thing, making altogether sing and shine in sweet accord, the one-love harmony of the universe.” - John Muir
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