Back in August, my wife and children convinced me to take them to see the total solar eclipse. So I took the day off work, we drove two and a half hours south on rural Kentucky roads, and we found a great eclipse lookout spot—out in the country on the lawn of a small missionary Baptist church near Russellville. We felt the strange weakening of the sun’s warmth as the eclipse grew. At the moment of totality, we saw the colors of sunset all around the horizon and the sun’s blazing corona emanating from behind the black moon. It was a moment of awe and wonder, and I hope we all remember it for a lifetime.
At the time, and especially as we subsequently swapped stories with other eclipse watchers, I felt a strong sense of solidarity with the millions of diverse people who shared a similar experience. That celestial darkness united us in a way I had not expected.
Of course, public figures quickly began sniping at each other once again, no great cultural rifts were healed, and our society basically went back to business as usual. But at least we were given a glimpse of what it could be like to look past all our differences and feel the simple kinship of being fellow Earth dwellers, peering out together into the vast and mysterious universe beyond our blue-green home.
The eclipse was not our country’s only common experience of darkness. With ugly partisan politics, racial tensions running high, environmental troubles, and nuclear threats abroad, many feel that we are going through an especially dark period in history—a darkness that divides rather than unites.
The wonderfully heartening message of God’s creation, however—both on Earth and in the heavens—is that darkness doesn’t last forever. The sun came back out after the eclipse. Our year may be waning toward the winter solstice, but then the light will return. I think it’s no coincidence that Jesus was born at the darkest time of the year and is the light of the world.
We will come through our dark times, whether the darkness is social sin, ecological challenges, or the personal episodes of darkness that we all face. I have faith in that, both from the Gospel and from the message of creation. The question is this: Can we find a way, in the midst of the darkness, to grow more together rather than apart?
Tips and Resources
In a public park or other open space, try this trust exercise: close your eyes and have a friend or loved one lead you around for several minutes, as if you were blind. Can you trust their guidance in your darkness?
All of reality is a mixture of darkness and light, and not all darkness is bad. Can you pay attention to the ways darkness is a good and necessary part of your daily life?
Visit NASA.gov to see photos and news about August’s eclipse—and to get information about the next total solar eclipse that crosses the United States on April 8, 2024.