Watching The Darkness

Dr. Jon R. Roebuck, Executive Director

Like most of America, I viewed the solar eclipse this week.  I watched it from the Campus of Belmont University here in Nashville, along with a crowd of about 6000.  Nashville was in the direct path of “totality” which means all of us got the full effect of the experience.  I have to admit that it was really something.  In fact, it was downright amazing.  The full eclipse was one of the most spellbinding images that I have seen a long time.  The picture that accompanies this article was taken by a friend who was standing next to me at the time of the total eclipse.  (Thanks, Steve, for the photo.)

There was a lot of excitement as the moon began to hide the sun.  At first, it was only a small piece of the sun that was covered.  And within a few minutes, almost half was gone.  And then… only the smallest, tiny sliver of the sun remained.  My friend told me to take a moment and look at the shadows on the ground.  (I hope that you were able to do that as well.)  The “serpent shadows” covered the pavement below my feet.  It appeared as though the surface of the ground was shimmering.  That, in and of itself, was pretty amazing.  But then, the moon completely blocked the sun.  Once we were told that it was safe to remove our viewing glasses, I looked up to see the image that my friend caught with his camera.  You could hear an audible gasp emerge from the crowd.  It was absolutely stunning.  As we stood in the near complete darkness of that moment, we realized that we were truly witnessing an extraordinary event.

As I was driving into town on the morning of the eclipse, I was listening to the car radio.  The radio disc-jockey was commenting on the impending event.  She said that she had failed to get a pair of the special viewing glasses.  She knew that looking directly at the sun would damage her vision and so she made this comment, “I guess I will just go outside and watch the darkness.”  Her words stuck in my mind.  She was just going to go outside and watch it get dark and then sunny again, which it did in a very brief two-minute span.

It seems to me that all of us are doing a little “darkness watching” these days.  As we gaze on the events that splash across our television and smart phone screens, from both here at home and across the globe, we get a real first-hand look at the darkness that surrounds us… the darkness of racism, the darkness of fear, the darkness of war and rumors of war, the darkness of hatred, the darkness of injustice, the darkness of poverty, the darkness of ignorance…  The list goes on and on.  At times, it appears that the depth of the darkness seems to all but extinguish the light of goodness and hope and joy that we crave and pray will overtake the planet.  The darkness invades our lives, perhaps our very souls.

But I learned something important from the total eclipse of the sun… that even in the darkest moments, the brilliance and beauty of the sun could not be hidden.  In fact, in that moment of “so called” total darkness, there was light on every horizon as though the sun was about to rise from every direction.  And even in the sky, the brilliance of the sun’s corona, was absolutely spectacular.

Let me simply remind you that when Jesus proclaims that He is the “light of world,” we should take notice.  As Gospel writer John suggests in his prologue, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  Though the darkness is deep and powerful and strong, it cannot and will not extinguish the light of Christ’s presence in our world. Greater is He who is in us, than the darkness that surrounds us.  The words of the great hymn come to mind… “When darkness seeks to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.  On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” (The Solid Rock)

You can watch the darkness all you want and curse its presence in our world.  But let your hope be steadfast and your joy inextinguishable.  The Light of the World is with us still and that will never change.