I spent the last week at my parents’ house on the Tennessee River. Almost every year, many of our family members gather there over the Fourth of July and spend a memorable week enjoying boating, jet skis, tubing, and other fun water sports.
One highlight we’ve enjoyed since my children were small is making smores around a campfire.
Many times over the years, willow flies, better known as mayflies in other locales, have interrupted our after-dark activities. These winged insects swarm by the millions along the Tennessee River each year, normally around Independence Day, but can start as early as May. Random late hatches can be as productive as the first.
Willow flies go through a day-long cycle—hatching and rising to the surface, flying to nearby foliage, mating and dropping their eggs in the water, which sink to the bottom to begin a new cycle the following year. Fishermen anticipate this yearly phenomenon with glee. Families excited for smores… not so much.
There are varied species of these insects, each with distinct stages and life cycles. If you’re interested in more about willow flies, check out this Wikipedia article. For this post, I will speak from personal experience.
The willow flies we encounter at my parents’ house are drawn to light. When they hatch and come up out of the river, they flock to any available light source—campfires, tiki torches, house lights—they aren’t picky and show no favoritism. My mom recorded this video last week.
To keep the insects from flocking to the sliding doors and windows of the house, we turn off every light inside and close all the blinds. Otherwise, there would be a pile of these pesky creatures on the patios the next morning leaving a stinky mess to clean up.
As I observed the willow flies zooming toward the spotlight on the roof, I thought about how Christians are to run to Jesus, the Light of the world. He keeps us from stumbling in the dark, and His light brings life to all who know and follow Him.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Before God saved us, we were living in darkness. He pulled us from that pit and called us into His light.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
Think again about the willow flies. They hatch in the dark recesses of the riverbed and push their way to the surface of the water and burst forth with new life and head straight for the light.
Their cycle reminds me of the Christian’s life and how we surge with passion when we are reborn. We’re so excited about our new walk with the Lord, and we cling to Him as our Light… for a while.
For many, the zeal dissipates and they dive back into the world and swim along the bottom of the river in the darkness once again.
Some marry non-Christians, others hang out in the wrong places with unbelieving friends. Or maybe we watch worldly movies and television shows, and read unholy books and magazines. Bottom line… we should avoid anything in our lives that takes us away from the light of Christ and into the darkness of the world.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
The good news for us is that, unlike willow flies, we more than likely have over one day to live and can find our way back to the true Light. Consider how you spend your time, what you watch, listen to, the people you hang out with. Do you need to make some changes to regain your passion for the Light of the world and live as a child of light?
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Ephesians 5:8
Join the conversation. Have you ever experienced a hatching of willow flies? What did you do? Did you stay outside and become “one with nature,” or did you run inside and hide? What about your spiritual light—are you shining as brightly for the Lord as you can? Or have some worldly practices creeped in and dimmed your brightness? What person shines the Lord’s light into your life the brightest?