My husband teaches physics and astronomy at the high school level, and every so often he invites his classes to go out stargazing at a local park. It is darker there at night than in other parts of the city, making it more conducive to finding constellations.
As we get out of the car this particular evening, everything looks pitch black. We can’t even see the ground clearly, so we step gingerly, one foot in front of the other, and feel our way up to the highest point on the open field, little by little becoming able to make out the ridge and the trees, the students and the soccer goals. Looking up at the broad expanse of sky, at first we can’t see too much there either. As is the case with the picture pasted in above, our eyes must adjust in order to distinguish the stars from the blackness. The human eye has to recalibrate.
Peering patiently at the sky, our eyes eventually do adjust, and we start to make out the bright pinpoints. More and more of the stars and planets show up above us, revealing that there are actually lights in the darkness. The words from the Gospel of John come to my lips: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Beauty, wonder, and hope show up too.
When we got home from stargazing that night, the final debate between the presidential candidates was on TV. As it proceeded, I couldn’t help but think that I was again having trouble seeing the light! Was it the bright light of the studio getting in the way, too much noise, or political obfuscation? Another kind of darkness seemed to be testing the theological claim that the Light was indeed shining. Later on it became clear to me that I needed to ask myself: Which of these candidates, if either, is looking for the Light? Which, if either, is willing to patiently and persistently let their eyes adjust to reality and truly see? The important question is not which one of them can be a light for our nation, but which is looking for the Light that is greater than him or her, and greater than America? That’s the one that I think deserves my vote.
Forty-eight hours later I faced a sleepless night. I get them every once in a while, what with all the unknowns I’m living right now. Within that profound obscurity, I recalled the lesson of stargazing and told myself again, even when it was hardest to believe: “Look for the light in the darkness, Jean. It is surely shining, even if you can’t see it!” I also lit a prayer candle and waited for my eyes to adjust.