August 21’s solar eclipse was a big deal at our house. We ordered our eclipse-certified glasses a month ahead of time on Amazon. We read articles and watched internet videos to learn what to expect. My daughter’s Second grade class spent the week before learning about the solar system, making pinhole projectors out of used cereal boxes, and making all sorts of moon-covered sun crafts. Even my 3-year-old son came home from preschool using his hands to show us how the moon passed before the sun.
We opted out of traveling to the path of totality, although I somewhat regret it. Instead, Jody and I took our glasses and our beach towels and joined the students and several other parents in the circular drive of our daughter’s elementary school. The view was not particularly noteworthy, but it was a good choice to watch something of such wonder surrounded by oohing and ahhing children. The excitement was palpable. We even shared Moon pies and Capri Sun drinks as we watched.
In Macon, we were in the 95 percent range. At peak, just a little sliver of sun shone past the moon’s dark circle. I had read that the sky would grow dim and the air would cool off, and while I knew our area would not experience that phenomenon fully, I did expect a little more dimming and cooling than we got. Still, the shade grew and the heat felt noticeably less intense. I tried not to feel disappointed.
As I reflected on what I saw and felt, my disappointment turned to wonder. I realized that all of the daytime that surrounded me came from that thin little sliver of sun that hung there. Just that tiny bit of light brightened the world around me. Even when so much of the sun had been covered up, the light out shined the darkness.
That reminds me of the opening words of the gospel of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). At 2:39 p.m. on August 21, I was reminded that just the smallest slice of light, the tiniest sliver of hope, is so much more powerful than the darkness that tries to cover it.
We sometimes feel as if we are in dark times. Political divisions, racial tensions, acts of terror, natural disasters, family conflicts, even just reading or watching the news – all of these things can suck the light right out of us, leaving us feeling anxious and despairing. But God does not call us to be a people of darkness; God calls us to be a people of light. The people of God are a people who claim to follow the “Light of the World,” people who teach our children to sing “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
I do not always know how to respond to the hard things that are going on in our community and our world. I sometimes fear what is to come. But wherever we go from here, I feel certain of this, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes: just a sliver of light can change our world. May we be amazed by it. May we walk in it, and may we shine it before others, so that they may see and give honor to our creator in heaven.
The Rev. Julie Long is associate pastor and minister of children and families at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon.