The last time it happened, I wasn’t impressed. As I recall, Daddy put a little bit of water in our baby pool. He said we were supposed to look into the pool to see the sun — not at the sun, which of course had never occurred to us. He was saying some other crazy stuff too about the moon covering up the sun or something like that. The details are a little fuzzy; but then, I was only 4-and-a-half years old.
Since that’s pretty much the last time I had thought about a solar eclipse, I didn’t get all hyped up when I heard about it this time around. You’d think it would have occurred to me that perhaps I had misremembered the magnitude of the event that occurred back in March 1970. I suppose I just never thought to revisit those memories and check them for accuracy.
Meanwhile, my husband the scientist had sought out safety glasses for us and had studied the details of the 2017 event. He had been talking about it for several weeks.
“We should go to one of the nearby areas where they will have totality,” Jay suggested.
“Good grief! We’ll have 99 percent here!” I nixed the idea. He mentioned it again a time or two, but I would have none of it. Besides, we were moving our daughter to New York City the weekend prior to the eclipse, and I really couldn’t abide thoughts of returning from one trip to take another.
On that Monday, Jay got home from work and told me that we needed to get going right away.
“Going where? We’ve got sun right here.”
“But there are a few trees in the way. We need a clear area where we can see it better.”
Have mercy. What an ordeal.
“Come out here! Grab your glasses! It’s starting!”
“I thought this wasn’t happening for an hour or more.”
“That’s when it will be at 99 percent. Come look!”
So, I stopped what I was doing and begrudgingly went outside, put on my glasses, and looked up.
The edge of the moon had just taken a little baby bite out of the sun. “That’s amazing!” It turns out, this eclipse thing was slightly more interesting than I had thought it would be.
We got in the car and went downtown to a tree-free area to watch the moon creep across the sky in front of the sun. I kept staring at it (through the protective glasses because I’m not crazy) taking breaks from the view only when my neck demanded release from its full extension.
“What’s the percentage now?” I asked my husband. In 10 minutes, we were supposed to reach 99 percent and the light still had not changed much. The birds were twittering and chirping; the temperature was slightly cooler; but it was not what anyone would call dark.
“About 95; maybe more.”
“No way! It’s still bright out here!”
“That’s because even when the sun is 99 percent blocked, it’s still about 10,000 times brighter than the moon.”
It was hard to comprehend, but when I looked up it was obvious; the moon would soon begin the second half of its journey past the sun. But it was not dark. Not at all.
It occurred to me: the love of God compares to the light of the sun. We comprehend such a small percentage of the depth of God’s steadfast love, yet our infinitesimal grasp is still blindingly bright.
From time to time, we followers of Christ catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God in existence on earth as it is in Heaven. We might call those times “thin places,” in keeping with Celtic tradition; or maybe we use the trendier phrase, “God-moments.” Whatever you call them, you’ve had times like that, haven’t you? I know I have. I’ve witnessed the tiniest bit of divine righteousness, felt just a shred of the grace that God offers to humanity, or experienced the haziest picture of God’s creation, and just like that, the distance between Heaven and earth narrows; God is real and present and true. The power of those instances is overwhelming; the intensity is such that I almost have to turn away.
So, I just wonder: considering the power of these minutes when the Kingdom of God feels so near, how could this world be changed if we Christ followers embraced a greater percentage of what God has to offer? What if we lived as if it were possible for the light of God to penetrate all earthly darkness — poverty, oppression, illness, hunger, injustice, war?
Indeed, I am grateful that even 1 percent of God’s love is transformative. But I want to do my part to reflect so much more than the minimum of God’s grace. How about you?