It is the end of summer. And my soul aches to say goodbye to it. Number two pencils have begun to fill jars instead of sweet tea and crisp burst of air invade mornings hinting to a new season. So many have eagerly awaited the fall, and as each leaf drops there is a momentary celebration as they anticipate all the more to come: bonfires, holidays, and that inspiration that seems to accompany the season. But for me, I can’t help but wish I could have a few more days of summer. All I can think is where did the time go? How did this season, this season full of so much fun, so much to do, end so quickly? And my heart chews while I look out the window. And I realize I am watching time pass right in front of me, stillness is only a trick of the eye, and even in my awareness it is a magic trick I can not figure.
I am southern through and through. And I roll around in the hot season like a dog on grass, mouth open, tongue out, tail wagging. It is the magic of the season that I cling to. Summer days, summer nights, and memories that smear into ideas. Memories of childhood. Memories of running through sprinklers with my brothers and sister, while wearing that swimsuit-the one with the iridescent purple- all day long and deep into night, catching fireflies in between gloppy spoonfuls of half melted ice cream, memories of laughter, so much laughter. Is that why it calls to me still? On nights so humid that I feel the curtain of vapor that hangs heavy in the air, my own theater, with its cicada symphony tuning up, readying its song, making melody in its own kind of chaos. The conductor taps for attention, and suddenly light. My mind its own kind of camera. And there is action. As fireflies light up the sky, light up the trees, light up the air, swooping, jumping, gliding. Its own miniature ballet. And I, all child and wonder, am captivated by the season. I sit in my front row seat with mouth ajar, and memories smear into idea. Yes, it is the magic of the season that I cling to.
I watch them. Those tiny dancers in the sky. I wonder why they charm me so much. But I find myself watching, glued to their choreography. I cannot look away. They are brief moments of joy, arranged in sequence, one after the other, for my delight, for my pleasure. Moments of grace. Moments of joy.
Moments of joy.
The phrase catches me off guard. Had I forgotten joy? In the midst of sitting out the season I loved so much, in the midst of watching rather than experiencing, had I forgotten about the very thing that makes me smile? When was the last time I felt joyful? When was the last time I sought it out, looked for it as often as I look for my keys? When was the last time I considered myself a joyful person? Consider it all Joy, brothers, when you fall into various trials. Trials? Yes, I had that. But joy? I’m not so sure. Consider it all joy when you fall. Fall? Yes, it feels like a fall. I hear the oomph as I hit the hard pavement of a broken world. I look down to scratched knees and trickling blood. I feel the burn of air to exposed nerves. So many exposed nerves. So much burning. I fell. I fall. I keep falling. Trial after trial after trial. How do I find joy in the fall, in the falling into?
My mind comes back to the moment. I am sitting under full moon in the land where fireflies come together. One by one they unite in their synchronized dance. I smile. I half giggle. I reach for them. I remember. I remember the nights mom sent me outside with a jar in hand. A jar to catch as many as I could, jumping into the air, hands cupping into the sky to seize the moment (moments of grace? Moments of joy?), to seize those dancers, but what else? It is more than just bug catching that made those nights so memorable. It is more than just creatures pulled to jar.
It is joy. Joy that sweeps in and out of those days and nights. It is joy that sweeps in and out of these. Like a child I run here and there with my jar, catching them like fireflies, hoarding them in my little catcher, determined to gather, determined to keep my stock, determined to press face hard against glass and watch the glow. The wom!, wom!, wom! of light that fills air, fills sky. If but only for a brief moment it is enough, it is enough to fill dark moments with hope, for another glow, and another, and another. And like a child addicted to the thrill I watch. I whisper. I watch, quiet and still, careful not to scare the magic of hope away. It is sacred. These summer nights thick and muggy. It is sacred. These nights of magic as I watch grace spread out and fill the backyard, fill the trees, fill the air. And bouts of light appear. Suddenly, and just as quickly it is gone. The moment fickle. But I do not care. Because the magic has thrilled me. He has thrilled me! And I am child once more, bubbling laughter out and over like a fountain, like a fountain of pure joy. And I know. I know my help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. And so I run, I run into His creation, I run into thick, muggy, humid life and I let drops of vapor cling to me. Because it is hot, and it is stale. But in the hot, in the stale, whether it be middle or end (does it really matter?) yes, in the hot the fireflies come. In the hot the magic bursts into open air. In the hot, not in the cold, life comes out of crooks and crannies, birthing, birthing, always birthing. And light is found. Yes, in the hot it comes. In the trials. Consider it all joy when you fall into trials. Consider it all joy, for it is in the hot, in the trial that hope can thrill. It is in the trial that the fireflies burst their light. He brings grace like fireflies. And it is only in the hot, muggy nights I see them. Only in the dark is their magic spectacular. Only in the trial does the wonder come. Yes, I see it now. Consider it joy when you fall into various trials. Consider it joy, clap hands in wonder with each catch. Knowing that the testing of your faith, the catching of these moments produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing.
It is the end of summer. And my soul aches to say goodbye to it. But I hold my jar, full of grace, full of joy. Little glowing reminders of the hope He has for me. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. And I see Him in every glow in that jar. He is my grace. He is my joy. He brings grace like fireflies. And light, light, always light, sometimes in moments, sometimes in hours, sometimes in whole seasons. And no matter its length, I do not care, Because the light has thrilled me, and I know, I know, my help comes from the Lord. For I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.
Psalm 121:2 | James 1:2-4 | Song of Songs 6:3