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Column: This little light of mine

I didn’t grow up with lightning bugs. I read about them, saw them on TV, but I never saw one in person until I was 19 years old and in the jungles of Thailand. I remember standing out in a clearing and seeing little flashes of light all around me. I was transfixed.

I asked a friend what on earth I was seeing, and he turned to me like I was insane.

“You don’t know what those are?”

“Umm … nope.”

“They’re fireflies. We have them all over back home in Alabama.”

“Fireflies?” I echoed. “You mean I had to come all the way to Thailand to see my first fireflies?”

I went back to college in Oregon and forgot about lightning bugs. But then, some years later, I moved to the Midwest. Now, having lived in this area for 20 years, lightning bugs are, to me, a harbinger of “real” summer — kind of like frost is a sure sign of fall. I can’t wait to see their flashy messages, and I cry out with glee when I see my first one each year. I stand out on the deck and just soak in their neon glory.

Remember the old Sunday School song, “This Little Light of Mine?” It keeps going through my head these firefly-filled evenings. “This little light of mine / I’m gonna let it shine …” Remember holding up your index finger and waving it around to show how you’re shining your light for Jesus? How you were never, ever, going to hide it under a bushel?

In spite of my preschool promises, I have been guilty of hiding my light under a bushel, of diming its brightness, of not feeling brave enough or wise enough to take a stand for Jesus.

And so I am making the lightning bugs my inspiration. Whenever I see one this summer, I have decided that I will pray. I’m praying specifically for an opportunity to let my light shine for Him. Not to glorify me … but to glorify the guy who made the fireflies.

Shortly before I saw my first firefly, I had a note taped to my dorm-room computer. It read, “Lord, make me shiny.” My roommate had a friend over, and she saw the note and, reading it out loud, she began to laugh.

“‘Make me shiny’? What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means …” I stumbled over my words, embarrassed by her disdain, by the juvenile sound of my note. “It means I want people to see Jesus in me,” I mumbled.

Twenty-five years later, that’s still my prayer.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in rural Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, runs monthly.