Like A Moth To A Flame
"Like a moth to a flame."
That old saying is one that I am sure that many of you have heard before in your lives. We get it from ancient observations about moths and their apparent attraction to light, even to their detriment.
Shakespeare even references this phrase in his play Merchant of Venice, so we can assume people used it well before the 17th Century.
But a recent study in Nature Communications this week revealed a new entomological study (study of bugs) that suggests moths are not actually drawn to artificial light as much as they are caught in it.
For several millennia, nocturnal insects would tilt their backs to the brightest light source, almost always the moon. This would help them fly level and upward.
The problem with artificial light is that moths instinctively turn their backs to it and then get stuck in a loop around the light source, trying to escape but unable to do so. Sometimes, this results in death by exhaustion or the light itself claims them.
Other than being super fascinating, why am I talking about this in a Devo?
The typical analogy of "like a moth to a flame" is employed when we want to describe how someone becomes attracted to something dangerous. But this new discovery gives us something else to think about.
Let's assume the validity of the study and agree that moths aren't necessarily attracted to the light and are simply getting stuck around it.
And let's make a new analogy.
What if what we tend to do as humans is to spend our lives searching for something, anything that will help us "fly right?" But instead of "turning our backs" to what will give us stability, what if we get caught up trying anything but the real thing?
The flame in this analogy can become anything that keeps us spinning in orbit until we exhaust or burn ourselves out.
It can be money, fame, success, excess, addiction, and power. But it can also be a career, relationships, and even our religion.
So, what's the "real thing" we are searching for before we get caught in loops around what is artificial?
Think bigger. Think about the Divine light of God's presence in the world around you and within you. Think about God's grace, love, and mercy. Think about what is good, beautiful, and true.
Think about what is most real and eternal.
We tend to treat the big ideas, the noble notions, the glorious virtues, and God around us as too unattainable. We like the idea of them but are only sometimes ready to let them shine upon us.
But if we spend our lives pursuing the Light instead of circling the lights, we will discover the kind of spiritual direction we have longed for but never hoped to find.
I am still trying to figure this out, but I'm beginning to learn that the way we know we are flying "in the Light" is that we experience the kind of peace that can't be explained away.
It's almost euphoric.
This peace permeates every aspect of our lives if we let it. We feel it deep down within our very being. It becomes the kind of companion that we know that we can't live without.
And this peace leads us to the kind of hope that defies logic.
We aren't spinning in circles anymore, so we finally can let ourselves hope again, and this kind of hope is entirely devoid of fear. It isn't naive about the future but isn't filled with any dread at the thought of tomorrow.
I don't know about you, but I want to feel that kind of peace and hope more than anything.
I have been thinking about the artificial lights I've been circling in my life that have kept me on an endless loop. Maybe you are, too. It's time we left that orbit and aimed higher.
The Light beckons us. It's time to fly again.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.