Light shining in a dark place

Anna Grummitt reflects on the symbolism of the surprising survival of a colony of glow worms after the summer’s bushfires.

It’s been six months since the last of New South Wales’ horrific Black Summer bushfires was extinguished, yet new reports about their catastrophic impact on our native wildlife continue to emerge.

So for a colony of glow worms living in an abandoned railway tunnel in the Wollemi National Park near Lithgow, things didn’t look good.

Over summer, the Gospers Mountain megablaze tore through the area, scorching everything in its tracks. Later, torrential rain and the coronavirus pandemic meant a prolonged national park closure, making the tunnel inaccessible. Locals feared the worst.

But just this Sunday, ABC News reported that locals had finally been able to return, and they’d discovered, with relief, that the glow worms had survived. In fact, they were thriving.

There’s something fascinating about glow worms. Found in such unexpected places, they shine so brightly amidst the darkness. “It’s as if you are looking out into the night sky, no moon, and all you see is just these millions of stars on the ceiling,” local tour guide Kristie Kearney told the ABC.

Unsurprisingly, locals now see these glow worms as a symbol of resilience and hope in the middle of the gloom of 2020, where the tunnel out of this darkness feels like it will never end.

For me, these ancient creatures bring to mind another “light shining in a dark place” — a light that seems to shine brighter when things feel most grim.

For millions of people, this light offers a hope that can endure the battering of fires, floods, plagues, and whatever other unexpected disaster is just around the corner. “The light shines in the darkness,” declares the Gospel of John, “and the darkness has not overcome it.”