Moments of Awe

The hype started a full year ago. We learned that Nashville would be the largest city in the United States to witness a totality solar eclipse. And then a few months ago the hype went into overdrive and we heard that thousands upon thousands of people from all over would descend on our city to view this event.

The week leading up to the eclipse was amazing. Stories every day on every channel on the T.V. talked about the eclipse. Then came the day of. We planned a viewing party here at the church, not really knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to see some 400 congregation members and neighbors come out. Natasha McMann, our own resident Astrophysicist, offered a presentation on how eclipses work and what we should know about them. At about 12:30 the eclipse began. First as just a tiny sliver and then, as time went on, more and more of the sun began to darken.

At about 1:15 all that remained of the sun was a banana shape. Tari and I marveled at the little crescent shadows on the ground. And right around 1:27, we arrived at totality. The glasses came off and we witnessed a celestial event that hadn’t been seen in Nashville for 500 years and won’t be seen here again for another 500 years. There were audible sounds of excitement.

And then, in about 2 minutes, it was over.

I found myself wondering if the event was worth all the hype. A year of talking about it and a total of two minutes of the actual event. That seemed unbalanced to me.

Except—what we experienced together was AWE and awe is very hard to come by. How many moments of awe have you ever experienced? The first time I saw the ocean I was filled with awe. Being in the operating room for the birth of my children filled me with awe. At my ordination having hands laid on me to go and preach the gospel was such a moment.

It occurs to me that the best of our lives come in these kinds of small moments. The first kiss, the graduation, the job promotion, when we say “I Do”. The best of life happens in these moments. Did the event live up to the hype? Absolutely! None of us who witnessed it will ever forget it. I heard some folks say they were so excited about it that they were going to start right now making plans to go to Paducah, KY in 2024 to see the next one.

I would suggest something else we can all do is to have more discerning eyes to see the wonder that happens around us every day. A solar eclipse is an amazing thing. It reminds us that the big rock we inhabit is hurtling around the sun at a ridiculous speed and there is a moon hurtling around the sun AND the earth at the same speed. And we human beings, all of us, have a significant amount of “stardust” inside of us. And there is nothing “solid” in our universe—only atoms spinning so fast that they give us the illusion of solidity.

More than any of that, there is the wonder that happens between us when we hold each other, and when we say “I forgive you”, “I love you”, I need you”, “I want to be your friend”.

May this day be filled with awe for you.