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Each week I spend a couple days driving on the freeway to and from places north (living in San Diego everything tends to be north) at o-dark hundred hours (reference to military time Ė I do live in a military town). It is not my favorite time to get out of bed, let alone to be driving on the freeway, for it tends to be rather cold (cold is a relative term I know but it can be in the low 50ís) and dark. However, over time I have found certain aspects of these o-dark hundred treks to be enjoyable and illuminating. One of the aspects of getting up and driving before the sun makes its appearance that I have found quite enjoyable is watching the moon. You see, during these morning drives the moon is my only companion, for although the freeway is filled with cars, the drivers are shrouded in the all-encompassing darkness. I share the road with faceless drivers, alone with my thoughts and reflections, the moon following silently alongside me as I make my way to my destination.
Since I make these treks each week I have been able to see the various forms (phases) the moon takes on during the course of a month. My favorite phases are what I call the Cheshire cat (a thin sliver of the moon is illuminated, appearing much like a smile) and the spotlight (the full moon). When I see the Cheshire cat moon it reminds me that I am one in whom God delights and finds joy. The smiling moon is a picture to me of how God reacts as God turns his eye upon me, Godís attention toward me Ė God smiles. Godís smile is a smile that communicates Godís fondness for me, the joy I bring to Godís heart as Godís child, Godís enjoyment of me, and much more. When I sink into these thoughts of my smiling God it makes my heart smile and brings refreshment to my soul.
The spotlight moon is amazing to me. At times as I walk to my vehicle during a full moon I can see my shadow even though it is 0-dark hundred hours. During these times when the moon is full and I drive the coast I am able to see the ocean lit up. This vast body of water normally unseen by me on darker mornings or evenings is now awash with light, the waves dancing in the moonlight. It is amazingly beautiful. All this reminds me of the power God has to shine forth in the darkness of my own circumstances and life. It recalls to me the words of John, ďThe light shines out in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.Ē (John 1:5 NRSV) This moon reminds me of the hope that is mine in Christ and the promises that nothing, no-thing, can ever separate me from Godís love or caring presence.
There is one additional thought I would like to share about the spotlight moon. At certain times of the year as I return home at night the spotlight moon seems to be just beginning to rise on the horizon and it looks gigantic. So huge, so close, it feels almost like I could touch it. I love when that huge spotlight moon shows itself Ė it is a thing of incredible beauty. In fact, I love this manifestation of the moon so much that I often spontaneously burst out singing. Itís true! I will suddenly find myself singing:
When the moon fills the sky like a big pizza pie thatís amore (love)
When the moon fills the sky like a big pizza pie thatís amore (love)
Then I change the next part a little. Instead of "Bells will ring ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling", I sing ďChrist died for me, Jesus set me free, thatís amoreĒ. (love)
This big pizza pie moon reminds me of the ginormous*, unconditional, nothing- can-separate-me-from-it love of God. Whatís not to sing about? As I drive home with this moon as my silent companion I seek to be present to the love of God within me, surrounding me, wooing me and carrying me in this moment and the next for all eternity.
The smiling, spotlight and the pizza pie moons communicate Godís love and hope to me and help to rekindle those same realities deep within me. These are gifts from God to me as I make my drive in solitude and silence. These gifts from God prepare and equip me for my day or my night as I head home to bed as well as my life as a whole and remind me to keep my eyes, ears and heart open to other gifts my God may seek to give me this day.
But that is not all. The moon has also turned out to be quite the theologian. Over the months of early morning o-dark hundred hours, driving with Sister Moon ( this idea of the personification of nature I adapt from St Francis of Assisi) has been teaching me about the character of God; not just Godís love but also the truth about the unchanging character of God. As we are told in Scripture, God does not change. However, our circumstances can seem to indicate that God does indeed change. So, we are left with a dilemma: does God change or does God not change? Over the years as I have considered this dilemma I have come to refer to God as the unchanging, ever changing One. By this description of God I have sought to communicate both these truths. At one level this seems to resonate with peoples own experience but at another level they seem to feel uneasy, having been taught that God does not change. Also, the fact that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow is a source of great comfort and security for people, even though at the level of their experience this does not ring true and often leads to much doubting about who God really is.
Well, after much thought and reflection I still believe God is the unchanging, ever changing One. To help illustrate this truth I will turn to my good friend, Sister Moon. Sister Moon has much wisdom to shed upon this topic. You see, Sister Moon lives out this truth (the unchanging, ever changing One) each and every month of each and every year. The moon is always changing (phases) but not actually changing at all. The changes that take place in the moon are more a matter of oneís perception of the moon, not the actual reality of the moon. The moon is and always remains the moon, possessing all the moon qualities (size, mass, etc.) that make it the moon. So, is our limited perception or experience of the moon as changing wrong? I would say yes and no. We are experiencing an aspect of the moon that is being illuminated to us, but our experience of the moon is not full and complete. Our experience of the moon, though not full and complete, is still real and true but at the same time is also lacking.
The problem arises when we begin to make absolute and axiomatic statements concerning the reality of the moon based on our experience of one or two phases of the moon. Our limited experience of the moon, if expanded upon, would be quite erroneous and would lead us astray from the truth. I think we have the tendency to do this when it comes to our relationship with God. We mistake our sense of who God is based on our finite experiences to be the true God. This kind of thinking will lead us astray and cause us much grief and anguish. Our immediate experience of the presence or absence of God, our deliverance by God from suffering, or our personal suffering does not define God. I think Jobís words adequately convey this truth, for while he had been overtaken by horrendous personal loss, he announced, ďThe Lord gives and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord.Ē Job knew that Godís character could not and should not be defined by his immediate circumstances and his perceived perception of God based on his experience. In my own life I strive to define God based on that which God has declared and revealed of Godís self through the Scriptures culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus. I put it this way: ďI choose to base my view of God on the unchanging historical declarations and manifestations of God rather than the dubious voices of my current experiences. Like the moon, our perceived perceptions of God are true in terms of our experience but not true in terms of whom God most truly is. At certain times in our life we may experience Ďphasesí of Godís being but that is never the full story. If at those times we choose to make declarative statements regarding the nature of God we will be wrong. Listen to Sister Moon, God is unchanging. God is God, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, even as our experience of God is ever changing. God is the unchanging, ever changing One.
As you can see, the moon has much to teach us. Next time you are out walking, driving or riding in the early morning or late at night, I encourage you to spend some time with Sister Moon. You may be amazed by what you learn about who God is. Also, remember that since God is the creator of heaven and earth, Godís fingerprints are all over Godís creation. So whether it is a moon or a sunrise, a flower or a bee, a tide pool, the starry host above or even the person you are talking with at that moment, take time to ponder what these things may have to share with you and teach you about God.
Psalm 19 reminds us:
The heavens tell of the glories of God.
The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make God known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies
yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.
Take time to listen to the silent messages of creation, messages that will encourage you, challenge you and invite you into a deeper relationship with the Creator God.
*Ginormous is a hybrid word combining gigantic and enormous. When it came to describing the vastness of Godís love I felt compelled to blend two words that might together hint at the gargantuan and enormous nature of Godís love for us.
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