On occasion I get asked, “Just what does a chaplain do?” In response to that question, I like to tell a story, a story I often repeat during annual student orientation at the Upper School. It’s a story about a seminary friend of mine. I’ll call him “Bob.”
Every summer when Bob was a teenager he attended a summer church camp. One year, he wandered off into the woods alone for a bit of prayerful reflection time. He became so engrossed in his thoughts that when night fell, Bob was surprised to find himself in total darkness, in the woods, and all alone. He tried to find the path, but even as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was unsuccessful. His calls for help went unheard. Bob stumbled on a tree root on the ground. His heart began to race. Panic and fear joined the darkness.
Suddenly, out of nowhere and off in the distance, Bob saw a tiny flash of light. A few moments later, he saw another. Then another. And another. Bob knew these tiny lights to be fireflies. With nothing else to direct him, Bob began to follow – slowly and taking care not to stumble again – the graceful twinkling of a tiny cloud of fireflies. Imagine his relief when, eventually, he found himself out of the woods and beside the lake where he joined his fellow campers at vespers.
Sometimes God is like the firefly. We may be unaware of God’s activity in our lives, or perhaps we simply wonder if God even exists. We may not be paying attention or we may be flat out ignoring God’s call on our lives. We may be struggling with such difficult issues in our personal lives that we might as well be lost in a forest in the dark all alone. But firefly moments happen. God is present and alive and real. A chaplain’s job is to help you notice the Light.
The Rev. Joy Willard-Williford
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy