4 things I learned when I couldn’t see the sun

Yesterday, I joined millions of people and spent a good part of the day wearing recycled 3D glasses and looking up in the sky while trying not to destroy my eyes. I also spent a good amount of time contemplating how my vision was changed as a result of what I saw (or didn’t see?).

Here, now, are 4 things I learned on the day when I couldn’t see the sun.

Everybody knows how to worship

I didn’t really get to see the full scope of this truth where I was because my son and I joined The B99’s parents in the parking lot of a “we’ve seen better days” bowling alley in Columbia, SC, and there weren’t a lot of people there. But the handful of others that were there not bowling did the exact same thing that we did and everyone else did in the videos I saw all over social media later: we gasped, we clapped, we said things like “oh wow, look!” over and over again.

In a word, we worshipped. Now don’t get crazy and think that I’m accusing people of being sun worshippers (or was it the moon?) because I’m not. But I am saying that for a brief 2-3 minute window, people gave their full attention to something that was beautiful and bigger than they were. That’s worship. It happened all across the path of totality and that means that it can also happen in our homes, our churches, our schools, well, you get the idea. God is beautiful and bigger than any of us, and as people cheered for the eclipse yesterday, they were in some sense telling Him, “Great job!”

It was hard to capture the full beauty of it

I kept looking at the corona and then trying to take a picture of it, and I couldn’t believe how different they were. One was a breathtaking white hot ring of brilliance around a dark moon, and the other was just a hot mess of a picture that looked just like – wait for it – the sun. It blew my mind how different the experience was from the picture, and when I tried to explain it to people, they had 2 very different reactions.

If they hadn’t been in the path of totality, they would kind of shake their heads like I was the turtle from Finding Nemo – cute, but unintelligible. I would struggle to find the best way to describe something that was indescribable.

But if I was talking with someone who HAD been in the path of totality, we needed fewer words. We didn’t have to describe the event; instead, we were able to describe the experience.

It can be a little frustrating to describe what the Lord has done in our lives to someone else who hasn’t had the same experience. It is in those moments that – with apologies to Dear Evan Hanson – words fail. But once we connect with someone else who has truly encountered the Son, words aren’t even that necessary.

The presence of the moon increases the power of the sun

I’m not a scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Ok, I didn’t do that either. But I did see a stat during some pot-eclipse coverage that really grabbed me. Apparently, when the moon totally eclipses the sun and the corona is in full effect, the temperature of the corona increases from 6,000° F to millions of degrees F. That’s an unbelievable increase in heat, energy, and power, and it’s all caused by the presence of an obstacle.

Is it possible that the obstacles in our lives can have the same effect? Absolutely. The obstacles in our lives can increase the power of God in our lives. When things come between you and the Son, know that the Son’s power increases exponentially to make sure that obstacle is removed. And that brings me to my final observation…

Nothing compares to 100%

Seeing the total eclipse is something that has been on my son, Will’s, bucket list, and when we first started thinking about getting in the car late Sunday night to make the two and a half hour trip to the path of totality, I wondered if it would really make that big of a difference. Of course, I was excited about spending a few days one-on-one with Will, but the eclipse was supposed to be 96.5% total in our town, and I was skeptical how big a difference 3.5% would make.

Boy, am I glad we went. It wasn’t long after the eclipse was over before I started seeing posts on social media from my hometown about how disappointing it was. Comments like “I thought it was supposed to get dark!” and “Why didn’t the temperature drop?” made me realize that anything less than totality isn’t good enough. It also made me realize how thankful I am that Jesus went all in for me and for you. That He wasn’t content to be a 96.5% sacrifice for 96.5% of our sin, and that means that I don’t have to settle for a less-than-satisfying 96.5% salvation experience.

I am free to live my life in the path of totality: total peace, total joy, total trust, total awe.

And nothing will ever eclipse that.

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Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins is lead pastor of The Gathering, a community church located in beautiful downtown Albemarle, North Carolina. He's the author of God is My Air Traffic Controller and My Name's Not Lou. Paul is passionate about his wife, his 3 children, running, reading, coaching, leading people who are following Jesus, Swedish Fish and the Carolina Panthers.

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