Friday, May 15, 2015

Guiding Stars

I awake in a cold, dark, concrete room seven time zones away from the home and the family I love.  The Star Alliance once again safely deposited me on the other side of our world.  My stiff, aching body leaves no doubt I’ve made the 5,624 mile journey but the emptiness inside reveals that my soul is still somewhere out over the North Atlantic.  Experience tells me it will be another day or two before the two are fully reunited, before I’m whole again.

Luminescent hands show it’s 3:57 am here. Loneliness and separation force me out of bed, out into the cool, clear night.  Stepping out the door of my temporary monastic cell the motion sensing security light flicks on with an electronic click.  There’s no escaping its vigilant, infrared probing of the night, unseen by the human eye but ever-present just the same.  It calls to mind David’s description of our all-knowing, omnipresent God in Psalm 139:

Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways.

God does indeed observe the travels and the rest of this wandering pilgrim monk.  David goes on to tell us:
If I go up to heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
even there Your hand will lead me;
Your right hand will hold on to me.

Standing under the clear alpine night sky I’m lonely but not alone. God is with me and He calls out to me through the night sky.  Trappist monk Thomas Merton captured my feelings with his line, “On this earth the experience of great beauty always remains mysteriously linked with the experience of great loneliness.” The psalmist tells us that God rolled the heavens out like a carpet. Although I can’t comprehend how He did this I unflinchingly believe it. The vast beauty of this star-filled sky calls me to worship the God who created it. This call comes through clearest when I’m alone — just God and me enjoying His creation and each other.

A smile comes to my face as I discern the familiar pattern of the Big Dipper and from there find Polaris.  I often think of Polaris, or the North Star, as an icon of Jesus. A constant in the midst of our ever morphing surroundings. A true Guide who faithfully shows us the way home. Although I love the night sky I’ve never taken the time to learn much astronomy. I can’t point out many constellations or even name the bright, visible planets. However, on a clear night I can usually find the Big Dipper and from there my North Star. Without the Dipper as a guide Polaris gets lost in the vast, star-studded night. It’s not the brightest star and simply doesn’t stand out. I need the Dipper to point me to the North Star.  From there I find my way home.

Worshiping God under the glorious alpine night sky the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind to see this as an image of how we Christians are like the Big Dipper.  We are not the main attraction.  Our task is to point the way to Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that without a reliable guide Jesus can get lost amongst all the beliefs and religions of our world (Romans 10:14-17). Without a guide He appears to be just one among thousands of gods. We, Christ followers, are to be like the stars that make up the Big Dipper. Although none of us stand out on our own, together we form God’s church which points the lost and searching world toward Christ their Savior.  

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