Just a few days before the Great American Solar Eclipse arrived with all of its accompanying hoopla and rejoicing, my husband asked me this:
“Would it be crazy if we drove to South Carolina to see the full eclipse instead of just the partial we’ll get here in Virginia?”
Yeah. That’d be crazy alright, traveling about 7 hours one way on a busy weekend with four kids in a minivan.
But it’d also by fun. This season we’re in with four kids who are growing far too fast, with two of our daughters in middle school this year, that’s the time to do wild and crazy things.
That’s the time to make family memories.
So, we started making plans.: texting family in South Carolina, deciding when to drive and how far.
I bought our travel snacks and packed up our clothes and eclipse glasses.
We crammed ourselves into the minivan on Sunday evening after finishing all our activities for the day, alternatively singing along with our CD or listening to our audio book as we traveled.
We drove there and back in a rapid fire turn around of two days, making it just in time to see the eclipse and then traveling the long way back home so my husband could go to work the next day.
And it was worth it.
Before our trip, I’d thought seeing the 86% coverage in Virginia would be “close enough.”
I’m so glad I was wrong.
We didn’t even begin to notice so many of the effects of the eclipse until the sun was about 95% covered down there in good old South Carolina.
That’s when the shadows became crisply distinct and sharp. Colors looked like we were seeing them through a camera filter.
Rippling shadows from the sun’s rays danced across the pavement in what we called “Sun snakes.”
Then the world dimmed and a chorus of wildlife roared into activity. Crickets, frogs, cicadas–all the singing creatures of the night snapped awake and sang.
They cut through the darkness with their music.
Moments later, the moon slipped right out of the sun’s path once again and normal resumed.
Back to normal light and normal shadows and normal colors.
And back to silence among the trees.
No more bullfrogs chanting nocturnal mating calls in the middle of a Monday afternoon. No more crickets chirping in chorus for three odd minutes.
Song over. For now.
Until later that night, of course, when these wild musicians would sing once again.
Maybe at some point I’ll forget some of the eclipse effects, like precisely how the shadows looked or exactly how the light altered.
But I’ll remember the singing in the dark.
That’s the example we need, after all, when the world grows dim and darkness presses in on us, how Jesus can give us a song to sing.
And we can lift up our voices to heaven in wild and raucous praise even when we can’t see the sun.
The Psalmist wrote:
By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me– a prayer to the God of my life (Psalm 42:8 NIV).
God’s song is with us and within us, perhaps especially in the night.
Maybe it was that God-song that Paul and Silas were crooning aloud at midnight as they sat shackled together in the prison (Acts 16).
Other prisoners listened to this surprising “joyful noise.”
Singing in the dark, what an oddity! No wonder others took notice.
Who can make a joyful noise when they’re chained down? Who can join in a round of praise hymns when uncertainty looms and anxiety threatens?
Paul and Silas did just that.
Their worship shook the jail and loosed the prisoners’ chains, including their own.
But instead of hightailing it out of the prison, they willingly remained until God completed the work he was doing.
Beth Moore writes:
How encouraging to recognize that Paul did not discover the strength to leave his circumstances: he discovered the strength to stay” (Living Beyond Yourself).
When we’re feeling chained and imprisoned, when we’re surrounded by darkness, when hope is hard, we might feel that’s the time to be silent.
Maybe, though, the darkest time is the perfect time to sing.
It doesn’t have to be loud and brave, bold or confident. It doesn’t need perfect pitch.
It could start out shaky and quiet and grow from there as the worship moves our own heart and cuts through the dark we face.
Our song of praise may not change our circumstances, but it may strengthen us to stay where we are until God leads us on out of there and into the light again.