Of Bugs, Birds, and Beauty

It’s firefly season. My girls go out at night to collect as many as they can. The glass jar with holes in the lid swarms with them. They flicker in the jar, their vibrant, yellow-green glow like fire in the glass. Then it’s time to let them go.

But they don’t want to let them go.

Photo courtesy of hortongrou
Photo courtesy of hortongrou

Another little girl tries pick up a firefly lying on the grass. She pinches it between her fingers. “I do this all the time,” she says. “I know how.” The poor little bug can’t fly anymore because she’s handled it so many times.

At the zoo there is an exhibit for the parakeets, those gorgeous, little tropical birds. Their feathers are bright and shimmer in the sunlight: yellow, orange, red, blue, and green. My girls and I feed them with seeds stuck to Popsicle sticks. The birds land right on the stick, or, if you hold really still, they’ll perch on your hand!

I watch as the little kids squirm to stay still, waiting patiently for the parakeets to land on their Popsicle sticks. The brilliantly-feathered birds flock to the seeds, flapping around our heads and shoulders. My daughter beams when they land on her hand. She doesn’t say a word, just basks in the novelty of the flighty little creatures settling on her like she’s a familiar friend.

She loves them. She can’t get enough of them. I mean, she really can’t get enough of them! She reaches out and seizes one of the birds in her fist. I gasp, horrified! She’s squeezing it in her palm to hold it down so it won’t escape! Is my daughter Elmyra?

I’m sure the bird will be scared and squawk. It isn’t; it doesn’t. It slips out of her grip, flies away, and swoops back down for more seeds. Next to me, another kid is trying the same tactic—the pounce and pin, I call it.

I just want to cry out, “Stop it! You’ll hurt it! Isn’t it enough that it comes into your hand? Why do you have to trap it? Contain it? Possess it?”

I feel this way about anything beautiful. All the creatures and scenes that God made fill me with awe. The idea of beauty itself—describing exactly why something is beautiful—isn’t really capturable. Nor can you remove the instinct of acknowledging beauty. There are some beauties that will always be; there are some beauties that we are conditioned by society to consider beautiful. Take the latest look in eye makeup, for example. I would never have imagined the exaggerated eye art of cinema’s Cleopatra and Cat Woman as something to imitate and go out in public wearing in 2014. But there you have it.

Here’s the thing, and we women know this: Beauty isn’t something you can trap, contain, or possess by force. It’s fleeting. It slips from our grasp again and again. No matter how some may try to redefine it, market it, and sell it, their promises are empty. We do not have it. Not essentially. Not here in this life.

Beauty is God’s. He is the Giver of every good thing. He created beauty. He created our love for it. He created our desire to have it, to want it so badly that we want to pounce, pin, and possess it forever. He knows what is truly, essentially beautiful, and He gives us all the guidelines to embrace this perfect beauty. Not a pounce and pin-type of possession but a thrilling gift we find in Him when He resides in us. It’s a glimpse of what eternity will be like. I believe it is there that we will get our fill of beauty and be satisfied.

Disclaimer: No parakeets or fireflies were interested in the writing of this post.