Turning Off the Lights

Somewhere on interstate 71 between my growing up home and my grown up home there is a sign. Not like a, “GIVE ME A SIGN” sign, but like a literal sign. A billboard I guess you would usually call it, but really it’s more like a giant TV screen. A huge, bright, rectangular call to the masses to come and buy things, even after the sun has gone down. A glowing beacon that reminds me every time I drive passed how terrified we are of the dark.

Light is literally polluting our world. It distracts insects from eating and draws turtles away from the sea. It causes the death of so many creatures, and smothers the natural light we were given: the light of the stars and the moon. In cities light pollution can be so bad that sometimes it is impossible to see even the brightest of stars.

What a shame it is, that fear coerces us to pollute the night.

What a sadness that we are scratching and clawing to continue the day, when there is such beauty in the night.

I have tattooed on my body two different types of stars. For many years they have meant so much to me. They are a sign of the size of the universe, our connection to the far far gone past, lights in the dark, direction when we have none. It is so cool to me that something we can see with our naked eye is so far away that if one died today, the world wouldn’t see its light flicker out for millions of years. 

In life, we aren’t always allowed light. Our days don’t always look joyful or exciting or even mediocre. Sometimes, they really, truly, suck. Sometimes, days turn to nights, and we are thrown into darkness that seems never ending. Unable to see our path or people or even our own hand in front of our face, we panic. We scramble and scratch and stretch for something that looks familiar, something that will drown out our fear. We are so scared that we forget to look up, and we reach instead for the artificial; for a distraction that will keep our heads above water until morning. We turn on a light, we float just above fear, and we try to keep our mind on lighter things to pass the time. All the while everything we need to make it through the night was right above our heads just waiting on us.

God gives us night. He leads us in darkness. He turns off the lights occasionally to give us reminders, to show us our strength, but he never leaves. Sometimes instead of accepting darkness and looking up, we grab our flashlights and point them frantically at each strange sound we hear. We forget, because those stars feel so distant. We don’t look hard enough and instead reach for what is familiar, and right in front of our faces. 

Fear makes us forget. The stars tell us stories. They point us north. They remind us in their distance how big everything really is; how big we can be, how big God can be for us. If we keep our lights out and face the darkness rather than seeking distractions, we can be guided through the fear rather than waiting it out only to fight it again tomorrow. This vast sky is so much more beautiful in true darkness than it ever has been smothered in artificial light. We just have to lay back, turn off our lights, and trust.

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