Freeing the Firefly - OUT NOW!
My book is out in the world! You can click the picture of it to be directed to a place you can purchase it or just click here. Below I have included the first chapter for a little taste. You can also subscribe to the email list if you want even more free book content in the coming weeks and days...
I was born and raised in Michigan, which meant cars and lakes and recessions and hockey games and snow and—fireflies. Beetle bugs playing the role of little lanterns that litter and linger in the night sky. Swaying and dancing. Appearing and disappearing.
Fireflies were 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 to 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. There was a consistent excitement that came with the light, and dreaded anticipation that came with the dark. Then, after much chasing and concentration, we’d finally catch one and put it in a mason jar. We’d add some grass, tighten some saran wrap over the top, and stick our jars by the sides of our beds.
. . .
Early on in the development of my Christian faith, my understanding of God was rooted in a framework a writer named Peter Rollins gave me language for years later. I saw God as a super being. As a bigger, better, stronger, and mightier version of Superman. God was something I could clearly contain, and whose identification was man, might, and masculinity.
God was against that and for this, and each one of those categories had parameters that made sense and were tangible, clear, and defined. God had bounds so that God could be God (supposedly), and evil could be evil (supposedly); and in this light the framework of what God was and what evil was existed in the binaries of peace and comfort for God, and disobedience and sin for evil.
I could carry God close to me because I could contain God. God, a being I had framed as Him, was a construct that I could hold onto and feel safe with because of the parameters in which I had placed him. And this construct was very helpful! I didn’t ever have to venture into the territory of feeling uncomfortable with a belief I didn't like because I could simply rebuke the belief as not being from God.
But belief that doesn’t lead to growth can often become detrimental.
With this God I had, there was no risk, discovery, or mystery. God was God, and what God was and wasn’t was marked, clear, and set.
This mentality should sound similar to the way of tradition. Within tradition there is a way things are supposed to be. But whatever the supposed to be reality within tradition happens to be is rarely the reality allowing room for ideas to evolve, become, and flourish.
. . .
Inevitably, the morning after I had caught that firefly, I would look over to the jar beside my bed and lay my eyes on the dead remains of something that, just the evening before, had been full of life and wonder in the night sky. You can catch a firefly in a jar, and for awhile it will have the same glow it initially had. But solitude and containment cause the light to fade. Or, more objectively speaking, the firefly suffocates and dries out.
This suffocation occurs because all givers and receivers of life need space to grow, and all bearers of light need space to expand.
I think my superman God is dead too. Because as hard as I tried to contain whatever he was, I realized that wouldn’t, shouldn’t and perhaps most importantly, couldn’t work. I grew up, and I began to see God where God, according to my closed jar faith, wasn’t supposed to be seen.
I witnessed the love of people in same-sex relationships, and that love seemed more real and alive than the relationships of some of the heterosexual couples I knew. I read about other religions and read books by the accused false teachers of my own religion and realized that God was perhaps more active in those places than a lot of the church services I went to. I listened to a lot of music that was not labeled Christian and realized that God’s voice was often singing much louder in those songs.
God shifted from superman to river.
From definition to a way of expression.
From category to a theme.
We all need to catch a firefly in a mason jar and witness that firefly die in order 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 belief doesn’t work as we enter into and see the true reality and way of this world beyond our limited context.
Instead of trying to catch or categorize God, I began to simply let God be. And when I did that, 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 one summer during college when this new reality or framework made its presence known through a fitting and familiar image. My family had recently moved into a new house over Christmas break the year before. The house sits on top of a ridge, and at the bottom of the ridge, there is a grove with an abundance of oak and maple trees that line the hillside. Toward the bottom of the ravine, there is a creek with lush, tall grasses. The leaves are so thick above you that the sky is greener than it is blue during the day. It’s quite the surreal setting.
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. Three. Seven. Twelve. Twenty.
Until there were so many that 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. And so on.
When it’s dark outside, you can't count the number of fireflies there are. Unless, of course, you only experience one at a time because you are trying to catch them. When you focus on the collective group of these lantern-butted bugs, the night sky becomes a blank canvas where you can see one appear in one place. Then disappear. And then another one appears in another place, and then disappears. The number is not tangible or quantifiable or definable or even relevant. It’s simply light existing freely and fluidly.
The fireflies 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 what it is you are witnessing. Fireflies outside the mason jar cast light in any place you can imagine. And you don’t question why or how. You just lose your breath in the wonder of it all.
What I have begun to understand simply by realizing just how little of this world I comprehend is that God, when released from our grasp, exists everywhere. And you don’t have to question why or how or what, you simply just know. Labeling the residence of the Divine 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. My personal experience has led me to believe that the Insistence of the Divine or God or Spirit or Way or whatever you want to call it, can happen much more freely when we put down the mason jar and instead choose to look upon the canvas of our lives, and see the light swirling all around us.
Once you give yourself over to the way of the wild nature of the light, you don’t question what the light is. You just know. And then you see the light appear in another place.
And before you know it, it’s all around you.