Go Ahead. Shine.
by John UpChurch
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life" Philippians 2:14-16a
The quick burning desire to be an astronomer came during year three of my college experience. That was after philosopher, writer (the first time), and English professor, but before anthropologist, high school teacher, and writer (the second time). You can’t blame a guy for wanting to wring every cent out of his scholarships.
So, in year three, I became convinced that I would study space because… well… because I loved planets and stuff. With the same gusto that had carried me through my philosophy phase, I charged into star charts and calculated orbits with fury and fine-tipped lead pencils. I pored over research on black holes and quasars and stared intently into the night sky trying to figure out how in the world someone could think that a certain cluster of stars could look anything like a person or a goat or whatever.
Then, reality hit in the way of astrophysics. The funny thing about studying the stars is that you have to be able to calculate distances, luminosity, parallaxes, and more fancy terms. I could crunch equations just fine, but that doesn’t mean I found it more satisfying than, say, ripping off a bandage from my legs.
Before I came to know Christ, all that nadir gazing did produce one substantial result in me: deep, deep emptiness. You can’t help but feel how small you are when you peer into the infinite-seeming inkiness of space. The more you see how incomprehensibly expansive everything really is, the more you feel speck-like in the cosmic order. The weight of eternity came crushing in on me.
And in that darkness, I needed light. This “crooked and depraved” man groped about for anything that would shine, some embers of hope. Not finding them in philosophy or books or even astronomy, the pressure just got worse. I kept feeling my way through the darkness into whatever classes the university offered, but through each of my potential career paths, I found nothing that could illuminate the road around me.
Of course, I wouldn’t have put it in those terms back then. At that point, I just knew something was messed up, and I couldn’t figure out what. I needed the “word of life.” But I didn’t know I needed it, and I didn’t know where to find it.
Intersecting Faith & Life: That’s where we come in as Christians. People like the old me don't always even know what gnaws at them. Some have so subverted the pain that it plays out in pursuits of passion: They mute it with noise, clutter, medicine, or flesh. They prefer to find ways to ignore the crushing weight.
And then they see the stars. At least, they should see the stars. I don't necessarily mean the stars in the night, since city lights drown them out for most of us now days. I mean, they need to see the stars around them who shine through their Jesus-emulating behavior. That light has the power to both expose their blindness and help them see.
So, shine. People like the old me are counting on it.