Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Night Light

On my second visit to Guatemala in October, 1999 we went to a place on the edge of Rio Dulce called Hacienda Tijax. In truth, most of the place was built over the river like a floating hotel. I’m not sure what “hacienda” means in Spanish; it was mostly a collection of small huts built on stilts that kept your small building about six inches out of the water. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night involved walking across a boardwalk without a hand rail and only a few centimeters of air between the boardwalk and the water. And God only knew what was in the water. That was the night I discovered that I tend to stagger at 2 a.m. walking to the john in the dark. The place was also at the edge of such a thick stand of trees that the word “jungle” would be justified.

That night, before my staggering trip to the bathroom, we were on our way to bed when one of our group came up breathless and called us to drop everything and come see what he had found. He took us to the edge of the trees and merely pointed up at the sky. And we all gasped in amazement.

Never have I seen stars like that. We were so far out from any city's artificial light that the cloudless night sky allowed the stars to shine as they never manage to do in places where earth-light clutters the sky. Some people call it light pollution. But that night at the edge of the jungle we could see stars like I had never seen them in my life. Forget picking out constellations like the Big Dipper or Orion's belt. There were so many stars visible that they crowded into more of a smudge in the sky. It was as though we could see every single star God ever made. It was probably one of the most spiritual moments of my life. We were all struck speechless. There was nothing to be said because it was such an indescribable moment. We went off to bed in silence.

There was a video sent around facebook and YouTube last week about the Hubble telescope. They keep going deeper and deeper into the sky and discovering endless sections of the universe. Indeed, they keep finding other whole universes. One universe would be enough to boggle my own mind but apparently there are even more than I can fathom.

As smart as humans keep getting, each time we cross a threshold of new discoveries God presents still more unknown territory. And it only gets more impressive at how big God is. The song comes to mind:
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God
When we built a third bedroom onto the end of our cabin in the woods I asked for the two corner walls to be mostly windows. Beaven thought I was crazy. He even wondered what would hold the house up but I got my windows.

On a cloudless night with a full moon the light illuminates the bedroom and I can see moon shadows outside the windows. The moonlight is so bright that it strikes the trees and leaves a shadow of the tree on the ground.

Sometimes it’s bright enough that I’m reminded of the night before my brother died. I was taking my turn on the night shift. Between administering doses of morphine I had nothing to do but walk around outside looking up at the sky and asking a lot of angry questions. My brother lived in the country like we do now and there was a full moon that night. Eventually the anger subsided and I started noticing how bright the moonlight was. I decided to get a newspaper to test it. So I sat myself down in a lawn chair and was able to read a newspaper by the light of the moon. Even while I was wondering where God was, God was sending me enough light to read a newspaper by.

I really feel sorry for people who live in cities when the moon and stars are in their glory. It must be hard to never fully see the sky the way God arranged it for us. Maybe city-dwellers don’t know what they’re missing but I do and that makes it even more pitiful.

The more humanity develops our planet and yields to the temptation to make life just a bit easier with artificial lighting, we are at the same time putting a distance between ourselves and our Creator.

That’s the last thing on earth we should be doing to ourselves. The more complicated our world becomes the greater our need to experience the majesty of an awesome God who loves us.

We have a New Moon coming up on the 14th. While it may not sound romantic to celebrate Valentines Day on a night without a moon it's your best chance to see the stars. Then on February 28th we'll have a full moon and you can look for moon shadows. Check out what you can see with the Hubble telescope. At the very least, get your butt outside and look up. Even without stars or moon it's still a big sky and nobody really knows where it ends.


Anonymous said...

god of wonders beyond our galaxy, you are holy...i saw those stars once when i was a kid near the Big Thicket. I felt like i was in a star studded dome. thanks for the reminder

Anonymous said...

Big Bend is a place of incredible stars!