They say the stars at night are big and bright…duh duh duh duh…deep in the heart of Texas. Well, those words certainly rang true a few nights ago on a sliver of highway way up north in the Lone Star state. Standing on the side of a deserted two lane blacktop, I saw the stars as I had never seen them before. I must have stared for 10 minutes straight, mouth agape, in wonder.
Everywhere I looked, the sky was absolutely full of glory, stars of varying color and size, shining through the dark stretched above me, while off in the distance to my east, lightning was furiously flashing. I lived on the east coast for most of my life, where there is so much light pollution you only get a small taste of what really dwells above us. It was as if a curtain had been pulled back, revealing far more than I ever imagined dwelt in the space around our little planet.
I was on a little road trip for work, delivering some materials to our crew in Wyoming. It was little in that it was only one day, but not so little in that it covered over 1000 miles and 4 states. I transversed western Oklahoma, the panhandle of Texas, northeastern New Mexico, and just a bit of Colorado, and then reversed direction and came home. It took 18 hours, but most of that was pure joy for me as I beheld country I had either never seen, or hadn’t seen in over three decades.
On the way home that night I was chasing thunderstorms which sprang up in the heat of the day. As I sped toward the east lightning was flashing almost constantly. I thought I would catch it (I would eventually, an hour from home), but it always seemed to outpace me. At one point, I happened to glance out my window to the north and realized, instead of clouds I could see stars. Being that I was literally in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the barren waste that is the Texas panhandle, I decided to pull over and take a look.
I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
Little was the word that kept coming to mind…small, infinitesimal…that’s what I felt like. I was a little spec of dust on a slightly larger ball of the stuff, hurtling through space around a star (which, size-wise, paled in comparison to some of the majestic burning orbs above my head) standing on the side of a forgotten highway, lost in wonder.
And yet…I couldn’t shake the feeling that above all THAT exists an even greater One, an even more majestic and glorious light. Above all those stars there dwells One who lives in unapproachable light, one Who not only knows each of those stars by name but who hung them in their place and keeps them there by the word of His power.
I couldn’t help but think of Abraham, millennia ago, standing on a plain not too different from the one I was standing on, gazing up at those same stars (let that sit in your head for a sec…the SAME stars, in the SAME places…let that make you feel small…they were here before us, and will be long after). Abe was looking at them in wonder, not just because of their beauty or the stories they told, but rather in hope of the promise that he, old and childless, would become father to a people more numerous than those very lights.
And as Rich Mullins sang, one of those stars Abraham saw I now stood under, and it was meant just for me.
Sometimes you have to get away from the noise to hear what’s really important. Sometimes you have to turn off the blinding lights of life and busyness and hustle and bustle, the lights of the now and imminent, the lights that blink and cry out for your attention, and go outside of it all. You gotta look up and realize it began before you and will continue long after you.
I’m the type of person who lets past hurts linger long in my mind, who questions his decisions and gets lost in “what ifs”, who sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. Things like this trip serve to give me badly needed perspective. I had 18 hours to consider the past two years, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs.
Abe’s life didn’t go exactly as he imagined, but God was with him every step. I am no Abraham, but I can see how God has been with me, with my family, too. I can see we are right where we’re supposed to be, just like those stars in the Texas sky. He is doing His work in us, in our kids. He is changing our hearts, healing the past, and truly doing a new thing, something we didn’t see coming when we left NC two years ago.
And if you’re reading this, He’s not done with you, either.