It was an oddly pretty night, a light fog and a weeping sky of pearl grey, and just the slightest tint of peach from the remnants of the sunset.
My son, Justin, and I were driving home together, after having had the $10.00 special at one of our favorite local restaurants in town. We picked up his wife, Heather, from the rehabilitation hospital where she worked. She talked of having a good day, and was delighted to see us, but even more so, to see Nalla, their beloved new puppy.
We started out for home and were only a mile or two down the road when Justin started to chant, “Pull over!” I thought he might be car sick, that the supper special wasn't so special. I pulled over. He then said, “Look!”, and pointed to an adjacent field of some type of crop... Cabbage? Alfalfa? Maybe soy or something?
I looked. It was a pretty vast field of some kind of vegetation I could obviously not make out -- big whoop. But then, my eyes registered the presence of lights, little flickering lights literally swarming above the field. This was a major infestation of delightful summer fireflies. We all oohed and aahed and watched. Not for a few seconds, but for several minutes – at my son’s wise insistence.
It looked like a replica of the Milky Way, and took our breath far away. It was glorious, mysterious, a gentle shock to the spiritual system. It was the perfect finale to a rather quiet but lovely evening.
On the remainder of the ride home, I pondered the beauty and magic of a field of fireflies. I considered the possibility that it just might be a suitable image for aging. I would do so much less, so that I could BE so much more. I would be lights, little lights, humble lights, grateful lights, swarming about the garden of my own life.
The image felt right, and it has stuck. I am out of the spotlight now. Nothing I say or do will get much notice. Still, maybe, if I live these days wisely and well, someone passing by might stop and behold a field of shimmering lights flickering all about me.
Aging not only slows us down, it calms us down, get us off the hook of trying to crackle and roar like lightning. We can be content with just a few firefly lights. Flashing tiny stars which dance and dart about the evening sky. We are well aware we are in the shadows, at twilight time, post-dusk, and readying for the coming of the blanketing night, but we still get a kick out of shedding some light in the dark.
I spend my retirement days thinking a lot. I'm ripe to be reflective. I'm ready to consider the truth in the raw. I'm not fearless, but am capable of taking a leap of faith. I want to know myself again. I want to understand my life, my purpose - and yes, what my legacy will be. I know these subjects are as vast as a winter sky, but still, I want to examine and explore this wide open territory.
First, I will admit, my life is nothing like I thought it would be. I can hardly tell it's my own. It's as if I orbit my life, yet never quite land there. My feelings remain somewhat vague. My soul is a bit too shriveled. Not a great deal of spirit or energy. My whole belief system is quite brittle. I feel like one of those balsam wood gliders, as if a single flight could leave me shattered.
What did I expect? Well, it's somewhat embarrassing, and a little naïve and foolish, but nevertheless true... I expected really great things. I thought I would be thin and healthy, capable of hiking mile upon mile. Instead, I'm obese with bad knees.
I was certain I'd be well respected, beloved, adored. I'd be well known, and have a powerful spiritual magnitude. I thought I'd be somebody who got noticed, to whom others would pay rapt attention. I thought I would be heralded as a great preacher, a phenomenal teacher, and a writer of distinction.
I know, pretty damn grandiose. Still, it was what I long believed was my calling and destiny. I guess to some degree, my dreams have come true. However, the fundamental truth is that I am now vividly aware of my own insignificance, and what a tiny dent I have made. I do not consider myself a failure or "loser," I just have a new appreciation for my own flaws and failings.
With all this forced humility, I have come to a far deeper awareness of the value of others, and a genuine respect for the significance of little things. I'm not only far more content these days, but far more calm. I'm letting go of my bloated expectations. I have popped the balloon of my own importance, and in the process, have discovered a far deeper and healthier reliance on God.
These days, I like being only accountable to God. I refuse to ask if I am popular or powerful or prominent. I have surrendered my obsession with myself, and am striving to experience Life on God’s terms, not my personal polling numbers. I just do not trust how the culture sees me. More so, I don’t much care anymore either. I wish to make a difference, but in the eyes of my Creator.
I am so much less than I ever believed I would be. My accomplishments seem so tiny and unimportant. My reputation is of no great note, my legacy quite simple and yes, quite small. I've touched a few lives with genuine love and compassion, but that is it, yet that is enough, more than enough.
Don’t get me wrong. My ego still rears its ugly head a few times a week. I still find myself being defensive or trying to prove a point, or seeking to stand out. However, I quickly go back to what I now know to be the truth. I just try to live in a manner which is reflective of the Grace of God.
I don’t believe the world has either a fondness or an understanding of Grace. Grace isn’t competitive. It lacks harsh judgment. It has no winners or losers. There are no rankings, no punishment. There is no reward other than the Grace itself. There is nothing to show off, or claim, just our own happiness, contentment and genuine sense of calm.
So here I am, retired, a mere morsel of a man. And yet, I matter. I am an instrument of Grace on many splendid days. I daily witness the wisdom and beauty of the earth. I feel called to love, and God shouts at me to forgive. It is all so simple and small. It's wonderfully focused and very manageable.
Good things do indeed come in small packages, and that is so very true of the human soul. When we are at ease, and focused and grounded in Grace, we are capable of enjoying a day ourselves, and miraculously, of making someone else’s day.
It is quite a little power we possess, making a day, a whole day. Not time to spend or waste or kill or find or buy, but just 24 lovely hours to be a beloved child of God, imaginative and curious, wide eyed and open hearted, childlike in spirit, and mature in soul. Being a human is the will of God, and it is a really good way to enjoy a day.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.