“I wanna be a firework. Or… not, because then I’d just fade away.”
Those words came from the lips of my ten-year-old friend as our families celebrated the 4th of July together. As she spoke, I knew the Lord was speaking to me through her, and it had nothing to do with fireworks. All summer I had been on a journey with Him through scripture and teachings about the beauty and importance of being small, and even hidden, in Him.
“For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
For days I kept thinking about her words. Fireworks are a thing of beauty, splashed across the sky in brilliant color. But they are definitely not small and hidden. They’re big and flashy and loud. They capture our attention. And if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t we all want to be a firework? To be noticed and heard? To be thought of as beautiful? Sure, that desire takes many different shapes, but the root is the same. Our flesh is selfish. Our egos want to be fed. And our humanness leads us to a desire for recognition.
But my young friend noticed something else about fireworks. They don’t last very long. Within seconds, there is nothing left of them other than a cloud of smoke. And even that dissipates quickly. I prayed, asking the Lord to show me what He was saying through my crazy fireworks thoughts.
Fast forward to October. One night my husband suddenly said “Put on some shoes and come with me.” He ignored my requests to know where we were going, grabbed my hand and led me outside to our kids’ trampoline. He climbed up, stretched out onto his back and said “Come give it a try…the stars are especially bright tonight.” A bit reluctantly I joined him. And I’m so glad I did. As I lay there silently taking them in, words and thoughts from the summer began to flood my mind and become even more clear.
My flesh wants to be a firework, but my soul is made to be a star.
I began to ponder what it might mean for our souls to live as stars rather than fireworks. Our flesh wants recognition, and the glory it might bring to us. But our souls were made to be like Jesus. He quietly and humbly walked in obedience to His Father’s leading, and turned all glory back to Him when it was given. He couldn’t hide or deny His glory. But He spent His years on Earth deflecting it, not seeking it.
What if instead of valuing firework status, we could recognize our value as uniquely individual stars in the bigger story of God? And have the heart posture of Jesus, reflecting God’s glory but never hogging it. As I looked up at the sky that night, it was hard not to notice that some stars are bigger and brighter than others. But alone, those bigger and brighter stars don’t have the same impact as the canvas of the night sky with thousands of lights shining together. I stayed silent, listening with my eyes. Stars are steady, reliable and full of immeasurable power. They don’t quickly fade away. But they can also look really small from our earthly vantage point. Yet our perspective doesn’t determine their size. In reality, the vast majority of stars that our eyes can see are larger than the sun. They will outshine and outlast any man-made firework we could ever begin to imagine. And these stars hang above our heads every single night. But in a sense they are hidden until we look for them. They don’t beg us to look up through flashes of color and loud noises. They shine and they wait. And then when hearts are stirred to look up, their combined efforts are awe-inspiring and bring a greater glory to the One who made them than if they shined alone.
In the quiet I remembered words a friend shared with me over the summer. He said “Just one star has enough energy to supply all of humanity’s needs for millions of years, and they’re just hanging there, something pretty for me to look at, and there are thousands of them. But it’s not a waste to Him. He’d probably hang a thousand more just to see me admire them.”
No star is wasted.
Just as our Father hand-crafted each star, He hand-crafted us and placed His light within. Even in places where it feels like everyone else’s star is shining brighter than ours, we can rest assured that through us, our Father is using His light to illuminate darkness in the specific town, ministry or circumstance where He has placed us. And as we learn to both shine and be hidden, we can be reminded that just as our perspective on the night sky can deem an immeasurably large star as small, our perspectives can have the same effect on our own lives and light.
I felt Him telling me that small is a perspective. And that being hidden doesn’t mean that you don’t shine. As we were about to go in for the night, suddenly the brightest shooting star I have ever seen blazed across the sky. My heart skipped a beat, because I knew it was the Lord confirming a lesson He’d been teaching me for months. That star was beautiful, and amazing, and worthy of every human eye. Yet our eyes may be the only ones that saw it. And that was enough for Him to create it. For me, that star was a firework. Because that is how our Father works. Stars can be fireworks in His hands.
“So—who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—and never overlooks a single one?”
-Isaiah 40:25-26 (The Message)