My husband, our daughters, and I were in Michigan for the August eclipse, dropping off our eldest, Kate, at college for the start of her freshman year. I actually thought ahead and ordered special eclipse glasses so we could look at the it without burning our eyes, and it was pretty cool to experience this solar phenomenon with a group of total strangers. The university provided panels with special filters so everyone could have a chance to look at the sun, and for several minutes in early afternoon, groups of people gathered in clusters all over campus squinting up into the sky, oohing and aahhing at the moon partially eclipsing the sun. We met up with our friends, who were also dropping their boys at college, and took turns passing the glasses around, trying NOT to look at the sun when we didn't have our protective eye-gear in place. (I accidentally looked directly at the sun, ever so briefly, and then worried for the rest of the day that I may have permanently scorched my retinas.)
The eclipse was definitely a cool thing to observe, but we all were surprised by how much light remained throughout, even at it's peak. We knew that from our location we wouldn't see a total eclipse, but at 83% I imagined it would look like dusk, or even 9 or 10 o'clock-ish dark. I guess I was expecting some shade of midnight blue, even half-expecting some confused owls and bats to maybe fly out of their daytime hiding places for just a few minutes. Instead, it was only slightly hazy, and some of the people in our group noticed some unusual shadows. I don't know if I would have even noticed anything different if I hadn't been looking for it. At one point, my friend Lynette and I talked about how remarkable it was that 17% light could overcome 83% darkness. Then we looked at each other, the spiritual significance of that sinking in. Seventeen percent light outshines eighty-three percent darkness.
I thought of Psalm 139: 11, 12:
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
I also thought about Jesus' words in Matthew 5:14-16:
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
The light of Christ in us, no matter how small we may think it is, shines brightly in this dark world. When we love one another, when we serve our brothers and sisters, when we do good in the name of Christ, we let our lights shine and God is glorified.
Earlier that morning, before the eclipse, I had the opportunity to visit my publisher, Kregel, which is only about 30 minutes from Kate's university. They gave me a warm welcome, a tour of their facilities, and invited me to speak to the staff. I shared a bit about my background and my book, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die. As I talked about my own grief journey, I thought about the much anticipated eclipse that was just hours away. I shared how sometimes our grief and our loss can be like an eclipse. Sometimes our pain is so big and dark, it fills up the space around us in such a way that it makes it difficult to see God's plan, to discern His presence, and to feel His love. But those dark seasons do not change the ever-present, enduring love of God. He is still here, whether we can see him or not. He is still loving us, whether we can feel it or not. In fact, His love is so radiant and bright, it can't truly be eclipsed. It is powerful and consuming, burning through the darkness and pain that seems to hide it. And the thing about an eclipse is that it is momentary. It doesn't last forever. We will see the light of the Son again, and we will feel the radiant warmth of His love once more.
The eclipse itself was somewhat of a disappointment to me--it wasn't the show stopper I was expecting. But that day held some beautiful treasures for me. As I move into this new season of parenting a college student (and adjust at home to four instead of five), as I reflect on my grief process and the amazing ways God is allowing me to share my story, I am deeply grateful, I'm grateful for friends and family to share this journey with. I am thankful for a God who can never be eclipsed, whose love can never be overshadowed, and who is so awesome in power, people stop everything they're doing, in the middle of an ordinary day, to gather in groups and clusters all over the country just to watch His creative handiwork.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."