fireflies in a jar

Tiny Creatures

I grew up during the seventies, which means there weren’t video games, hundreds of television stations, or even cell phones to play with as a kid. I had to use my imagination for entertainment. My parents allowed me to play outside all day as long as I came home for dinner, so every minute was full of adventure as I explored the world around me.

If nobody else was around to play with, I enjoyed watching the ants march in the dirt. Their ability to move large breadcrumbs and work as a group carrying them into anthills was truly fascinating. I desperately wished it was possible to shrink down and experience the world from their vantage point. I was curious if they feared me as a giant and even wondered if they thought I was God. I talked to them with gentle words of affirmation and encouraged their hard work, hoping their tiny wiggling antennae wouldn’t interpret me as a threat so they wouldn’t attempt to hide.

As much fun as it was exploring during the day, something even more magical happened at night when the sun went down and the lightning bugs came out. Our house was far away from the city so when it got dark, it was pitch black. As tiny flickering lights swarmed across our yard, I couldn’t tell where the landscape ended and the sky full of stars began. It was remarkable…a breathtaking scene. I loved to run around and catch as many of the fireflies as I could and put them into a glass mason jar with nail holes in the top.

One night after a successful capture, I laid down in the yard to rest and set my little glowing glass world beside me. Then I looked up at the sky to search for Orion and Cassiopeia, whom I had read about in my favorite book…the Encyclopedia. In that moment, the awe previously held for visiting galaxies far, far away–like the ones I’d seen in Star Wars–seemed like a cheap substitute for the universe that surrounded me. The number of glimmering lights was astonishing and the enormity of the universe began to awaken my soul as I gazed into the heavens.

I began to wonder, “How far away are those stars? Is there anything past them?” With that thought I looked back down at the lightning bug home and back up again. “What if there is someone up there, who is looking down at me? What if the stars are really just tiny air holes in the sky so that I can breathe? What if a giant is studying my every move?”

In that moment, I was overcome with a powerful awareness of how small I really was and it was an awesome feeling. My perspective was forever changed as I realized how massive the universe really was. Somehow I just knew God was real and I was excited to be a part of His world.

Curiosity is a powerful gift we should nurture. We should be more intentional these days to get away from those things that distract us from engaging with the world around us. God created a beautiful and fascinating place for us to enjoy so we should make more time to explore it. Life can be full of magical moments if we open our eyes.


  1. I remember how much fun and excitement my boys had when playing outside for the day and again at night. Technology is great, but I’m worried that our children growing up now don’t have much imagination. Thanks for your wonderful story!

  2. your understanding ants gives you something in common with the great doctor of the church nSt. teresa of Avila a carmelite who reformed the corrupt order with St. John of the Cross. she said”look at the antsz. so tiny but so indistrious”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s