When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them.
- Psalm 8:3-4
At 2:39pm on Tuesday I was laying in the grass in my mom’s massive backyard near the Blue Ridge mountains wearing the paper glasses my brother purchased two months earlier for this exact moment. The moon eclipsed 95% of the sun in Mountain City, Tennessee. The light that was left muted the grass and the butterfly bushes but made their colors deeper, as if God intended to press the moment into every creature looking skyward as She momentarily slid the source of all life that we know out of view.
While the sun, moon and earth shifted gears I felt my smallness and was surprised. It was identical to the feeling of being at the altar on Sunday morning.
Maybe reverence is just understanding your true size.
As a matter of course, our displays of patriotism involve words like “Great”, “Number 1” and “First”. White Nationalists rallied in Charlottesville to assert their supremacy two weeks ago. The eclipse seems like a celestial demonstration that all notions of superiority are delusional. And way before humans knew anything about the universe, the Bible was clear that ascribing ultimate significance to ourselves is blasphemous.
Rosemary and I took John to the Planetarium at the Franklin Institute for a show about the birth of the moon when he was just three. The lights dimmed as the show began and the planetarium dome became a night sky glowing with low hanging stars. John nuzzled under my chin with delight and pointed until suddenly, the outline of a meteor hurdling towards us took shape. Before I could cover John’s eyes it crashed into earth. The shrieks he let out were louder and more explosive than the meteor’s impact and the flying debris. I bolted holding him like a football though the maze of chairs, apologizing to our neighbors as I ran with John simultaneously wailing in terror and yelling “I like it!!! I like it!!!”
Embracing awe and smallness go hand in hand. Like the glasses you wore during the eclipse, it’s impossible to see God without them.