Last night I found myself laying on the hood of our car, the engine softly ticking as it cooled, the hood still warm from our 30 minute drive out to a place where the city lights just begin to fade; that place where you can look up and see the stars. We were there because there was a chance that we could see the Aurora Borealis that night, and so we hopped in our car to meet up with my wife’s dad, driving to a place where the hills rolled and the night was quiet. And we looked up, watching the sky.
Here’s a crazy thought – that light you see when you look into the night sky? That light has been traveling ages and ages. It’s traveled all this time, through space, for years and years and years – until it hits our little planet, and then it’s done. I sat there, watching the sky, drinking in this light that has been traveling for unimaginable amounts of time.
We were there, out late, to see something amazing that may or may not happen; something for which we had to leave our cozy little house and our well lit streets. Those things keep us safe, but they keep us from looking up, too. We get comfortable with our houses, schools, hospitals, and shopping malls, never thinking about how each of these cuts us off, a little bit, from something so amazing that it’s borderline incomprehensible. We have, for the most part, cut the amazing out from our lives. We wake up, do our work, maybe watch some TV or read a book, and then go to bed again, to repeat it the next day. We go to our churches, we believe the things that are easy to believe, and we get outraged at the things we’re told to get outraged about. We don’t dare turn off the lights anymore – we don’t like the dark, because we can’t be sure of things then. We like having things clearly lit – it shows us clearly how things really are. And so we put up lights (some real, some artificial) and that’s how we live our lives.
My wife and I have had a rough year – those that know us probably know that. And we spend our time living in a house surrounded by houses just like it, and we take the same pills every day that are supposed to keep us alive, and we wait and hope and pray for something extraordinary to happen. And last night, for once, we took a drive to a place with no light. We parked our car, pulled out a blanket, and waited, waited for something amazing that may or may not happen.
And as we watched the sun set, the stars came out. Light, in the darkness, traveling years and years just to get here. light that we usually don’t see, because we don’t look up. And even when we do, we can’t see it – the lights, the ones that keep us safe and let us see, block them out.
We didn’t get to see the Aurora Borealis. There was a lot of smoke in the air, blocking the view. Or maybe we couldn’t have seen them even if the smoke was gone. But we left the lights, left the city, and went for a drive to a place where you can look up and experience something amazing. And we saw lightning flashing in the distance, and my wife’s dad told us about weather patterns, and we looked for satellites, and we saw stars.
We’ve been talking more and more about turning off the lights – to go where things aren’t so easy and simple, to see what sort of amazement that God has in store for us. The new Arcade Fire album is playing as I write this and it talks about this very thing – how our comfort is keeping us from the amazing. And as Regine Chassagne sings “I need the darkness/someone please cut the lights“, all I can think is…Yes.