Last night there was a lunar eclipse where the moon passes through the middle of the earth’s shadow. I had been looking forward to this all summer. On this strangely warm autumn evening, I climbed the hill behind the monastery and caught a few grainy photos of the moon nearing totality before clouds rolled in to end the show.
Sitting on the soccer field with my back to a post, letting the warm dark wash over me and listening to the year’s last crickets, I thought how life can push the spirit into an eclipse. Problems push their way in between us and God’s light, and we are lost in darkness. In Psalm 10 the poet cries out, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Why, Lord, do you wrap yourself in darkness when I need you most?
“When darkness comes,” I thought as I sat waiting for a break in the clouds, “the only way to get beyond it is through it.” Turn to God in prayer, grit your teeth, hunker down, and plod through the darkness, feeling a bit weepy for your miserable luck, but with a firm grip on God’s hand for guidance. Eventually the moon emerges from the shadow and all is light again. Looking back, you see that God was here all the time; you just had your eyes closed. That is profound advice, I thought,to glean from an eclipse playing hide-and-seek in the clouds.
When it was apparent that the clouds had set in for good and rain was coming, I got to my feet and began to walk past college students sitting on the dark field and talking. As I passed one group, a woman’s voice said, “Look! There’s the moon again. It’s red!” As I turned to look behind me, an unhappy male voice came out of the darkness. “I don’t care about the moon. I’m just worried about my friend.”
Out of the mouth of college students, sometimes, comes wisdom. When we are in darkness and feel bereft by God, prayer isn’t always enough; a little human companionship is needed to become whole again. We were not made to live alone; we need a ‘God with skin on’ who worries about us when we are down, supports us with a listening ear, and shares hugs. Christ took that role when he was on earth, and now we are the Body of Christ. As one family we are called to support and encourage each other in mutual love and caring.
When the clouds roll over your spirit, keep your thoughts on God who is with you always. If the eyes of your heart can’t see God, feel for heavenly warmth on your face. That is God. And reach out to take the hand of another in mutual support. That too is God: Christ with skin on.