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February 25, 2009
Lessons from the Lightning Bug

I have always been fascinated with fireflies (lightning bugs). As a child, I looked forward to their sudden appearance on summer evenings, lighting up the dark woods behind our house. As dusk began to fall, I watched them blinking on and off, on and off, and of course, I ran to get my mason jar. I liked having my own private show, a ringside seat. It was amazing to watch their tiny bodies light up again and again. I liked to watch them blink on and off in my mason jar beside my bed until I fell asleep.

 

Recently, I learned how fireflies produce their light and it puts me even more in awe of them. I believe, as did Paul the apostle, that the visible things of the world bear evidence of our invisible yet incredible God, and that the physical elements we are surrounded by expose spiritual truths if we care to take the time to investigate.

 

Well, after reading an article in the newspaper by Norman Winters concerning summer fireflies, I became curious again as to just how these little critters light up the world.  Let me share some of what I learned and I think you will be as fascinated as I am about the spiritual truths revealed by the lightning bug’s light.

 

The lightning bug is not alone in its ability to produce light, but it is however, one of the only land-based creatures.  Most of the others live in the depths of the ocean. The technical name for what they do is bioluminescence, making light within the body. Here’s the scoop on that: The lightening bug has special cells in its belly that contain a chemical called luciferin. When luciferin meets up with oxygen, a chemical reaction occurs turning oxygen into light. Isn’t that fascinating? The whole process is a little more complex than that, but this is the general idea; so in essence, the firefly literally breathes in the oxygen that becomes the light.

 

Scientists say that this is the most efficient of all light production found in the world. A common household light bulb converts 90% of the energy it uses into heat, while only 10% of the energy actually turns into light. If you have ever unscrewed a hot light bulb, you know this first hand; but have you ever been burned by a lightning bug? Neither have I. That’s because they efficiently produce light without wasting energy on heat production. 

 

Another thing I found interesting was that the cells that produce the light also have uric acid crystals in them that help to reflect the light away from the abdomen and out into the darkness so as to attract other fireflies, particularly those of the opposite gender. The idea is to produce offspring, new lightning bugs.

 

Are you beginning to see some of the spiritual truths? Here are a few comparisons that may be drawn between the firefly and the Christian. First, both are creatures designed for the purpose of producing light in a dark world, brightening every corner of their existence and becoming more brilliantly visible in the darkest of times. Secondly, both have a light that is breathed in. Just as the oxygen enters the lightening bug and turns to light, the Holy Spirit enters the Christian and turned to light. Thirdly, both have a quality that causes the light to reflect away from their selves and out into the world. Fourthly, the light serves the same purpose for both; it is meant to attract others so as to produce offspring, either a new firefly or a new Christian. Finally, the light of each burns efficiently and without heat.  It is meant to illuminate, not burn. The light goes out gently and quietly into the world lighting up the darkness, attracting others to it, and bringing joy to all who see it.

 

Isn’t it wonderful what we can learn from a simple little creature like the firefly? I hope you will think of these truths every time you see the twinkling glow of a firefly.  




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