Please welcome today’s guest writer, Robert Van Zanen. Robert graduated from Calvin with a B.A. in secondary education, social studies, and history. After a wonderful year of teaching middle school, he was lead to pursue an M.Div from Calvin Theological Seminary. He now serves in a small church just outside of GR, is married to his wife Becky, and has an Australian Shepherd puppy to keep him active.
Some time ago now I found myself laying on my back in the cool of the night staring up at the stars. A close friend, who had never seen a meteor shower before, had easily convinced my wife and I and to join her in her quest to catch a glimpse of a million year old lump of rock and metal meeting its glorious demise as it blazed through our atmosphere. When the sun had set, we gathered up some blankets and made our way to the darkest spot in the lawn, and then waited.
A streak of light momentarily appeared in a corner of the sky.
“There’s one!” I said, pointing uselessly into the dark.
“Missed it…” came her reply.
I spotted a few more, my wife noticed a number, but still our friend hadn’t accomplished her goal. Finally, she gave a shout.
“Saw one! Wow.”
Whenever I look up at the night sky and see the multitude of stars I can’t help but be amazed at the size and scope of the universe. It’s no wonder that ancient peoples around the world created stories about the stars and pictured the divine in that space which is so brilliantly lit and yet so far out of our reach. Whether it is the first time or the hundredth, the human heart responds in wonder at the marvels of the creation. We feel just a bit smaller when we see the Milky Way blanketing the sky, only visible when far from the hustle and bustle of our brightly electrified civilization.
I think it would do us all some good to step back from the ever present glow of our TVs, computers, and fluorescent lights, and embrace again the darkness of the night. It might give us some much needed perspective, the realization that we are part of something so much larger than ourselves. That, as much as we’d like to believe we are in control, so much is beyond us, beyond our ability to control or comprehend. Our lives, in all their business, chaos, and fervour, make no difference to the celestial bodies far above. Their light shines forth, heedless of the ambitions and striving of thousands of years of humanity.
As we gaze upward the teacher’s words ring true. “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What do people gain from all their labor at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.’” (Ecc. 1:2-4)
And yet, in that same moment, there in the cool of the night, we may also realize that the darkness isn’t really as dark as we imagined it to be. That maybe, just maybe, there is meaning to this life. Maybe the wonder will return, the divine will speak, and our spirits will join the psalmist in saying, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Ps. 19:1) We might just experience his love reaching to the heavens and his faithfulness reaching to the skies. (Ps. 57:10)
In either case, my hope is that there, at the end of one day and the beginning of the next, you’ll see something new. It is hope that you’ll discover that there is so much more to life than first meets our modern eyes and that gaining some ancient perspective might just do you some contemporary good.