Halfway through our set of 90s alternative and 70s funk cover tunes, it was announced that the bride and groom were about to depart. The bridesmaids all jumped into action handing out sparklers to everyone so we could wave the newlyweds out in a blaze of sputtering glory. I grabbed a book of matches off one of the tables and headed for the parking lot.
It was a windy night, and when it came time to start the show I rifled through two or three matches that went out as soon as they were lit. In a hurry I tossed them on the ground, but then that “I’m littering!” instinct kicked in and I looked down. What I saw wasn’t a scattering of burnt matches, but a towheaded boy about five years old with a fistful of sparklers in either hand. He wasn’t smiling, and he didn’t look longingly at me; he just looked stone-faced and ready for me to light his fireworks. Immediately I knelt down and shielded the wind with my back, struck up another match that failed and then finally one that got the paper on the ends of his sparklers burning. He didn’t look me in the eye, and he didn’t say thank you; he just backed up and watched the colors explode from the ends of his fingers.
Throughout the day Saturday the image of that boy’s face haunted me. I did the right thing in helping him, I’m sure, but I almost didn’t. What if I hadn’t looked down? What if I had looked down and then turned my eyes away? What if I had given up after one match and stood up to try and light my own sparklers again? I know myself well enough to be sure that all of those possibilities were more probable than the scenario that actually played out.
Imagine yourself as a five-year-old again, standing there, sparklers in hand and not old enough to light them yourself. Imagine a sea of older, taller people all laughing and lighting each other’s sparklers and paying no attention to you at all. Imagine me standing within arms reach and not bending down to help. It is awful, isn’t it? I’m close to crying again just thinking about it.
But the Lord is doing something to me. Steven six months ago would not have lit that kid’s fireworks. Maybe even Steven a week ago would not. I am unbelievably selfish and shortsighted unless someone approaches me and very plainly asks me for help. Left to my own, I don’t notice other people’s needs until the moment has passed for me to lend a hand. But I don’t want to be insular and myopic, and perhaps I’m beginning to see the first fruits of a new me that will not be. Maybe even a new me that already isn’t.
All glory and honor to the One who has come to make all things new.