I’m a thrifter. I get a thrill from attending auctions and perusing estate sales, running my hands over something old and dreaming of a way to make it new. My husband would probably tell you I collect old junk, but that’s beside the point.
I once came home with a 1960s telescope. I know nothing about astronomy, but I love stargazing. The telescope was in pieces, but it seemed like all the parts were there, rumbling around in the old taped-together box. I lugged it into our minivan and brought the musty treasure into our home to the delight of my children and my husband Jonny’s chagrin.
Jonny’s motto is “you bought it; you set it up” when I come home with thrift store treasures. Too proud to ask for his help, I enlisted my 11-year-old son to help me piece together the giant, multi-lens telescope. I tried to find a manual online but only found some intense (and confusing) message boards from the late ’90s.
Our new telescope came with a menagerie of lenses, which neither mother nor son quite understood what to do with. But we made it work, cobbling pieces together with a screwdriver and a prayer. We were proud of our real-life telescope, likely manufactured in the heat of the space race to the moon. It didn’t seem to matter that we couldn’t make heads or tails of the lenses.
A lunar eclipse was coming, and we went to bed pleased with ourselves, visions of shooting stars dancing in our heads. (I know Jonny did some late-night refiguring of our haphazard construction, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Our sons buzzed with the excitement of getting to wake up in the middle of the night to see the moon show its splendor. Soon, I was rubbing the sleep out of my eye and fumbling for my glasses as two little boys tumbled from their beds with anticipation, slipping puffy coats over their pajamas. My husband and I followed suit, adventurers in the night, ready to embark on a space mission. Our footsteps echoed down the stairs, and our dogs followed at our heels, confused at the commotion that woke them from their slumber.
We pulled the vintage telescope through the door and back out into the wild. Shadows danced, and our breath made clouds as we set up in the driveway, hoping to see something bright and beautiful cut through the darkness.
Then, there it was: the moon, big and bold, a reminder that the One who hung the stars was keeping watch over our neighborhood, over us.
“I’ve never seen anything like it!”
The novelty of the telescope had us crouching down and squinting our eyes. My knees popped as I kneeled but I still felt wrapped in childlike wonder, in whimsy not contained by age. The kids took turns looking through the eye of the telescope. The blurry white circle felt a lot like magic. We shoved our hands in our pockets as we watched the sun that illuminates the day meet the moon that rules the night, a holy communion among the streetlights.
The truth is that the telescope didn’t help us see the moon as much as we expected.
Our decades-old, new-to-us lenses obscured the view. Everything we thought mattered didn’t matter much at all. We squinted into the telescope and adjusted the lenses, but what we saw was a bit … blurry. We found it easier to see with our eyes.
And as we looked up at the moon, I remembered that the kingdom of God is, as the Psalmist wrote, “forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky” (Psalm 89:37 NIV).
God’s ever-present grace is like the swirl of the galaxies around us. We may not be able to see it – or even fathom it – but it is with us.
Sometimes we just need a shift in perspective. We can focus so much on having the right set of circumstances (or right telescopes) that we miss the glory all around us.
How often have you fallen into that if, then thinking? Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking something along the lines of, “If I just read my Bible more, then maybe I would see God’s presence in my life,” or “If I just prayed more, then maybe my circumstances would be better.”
The truth is that while Scripture reading and prayer can be a resource, the Kingdom of God is all around you, forever like the moon. The daylight might obscure your vision from the moon, but that doesn’t mean the moon isn’t there. You can trust that God loves you deeply, and doesn’t leave you, even when you feel most alone. You don’t need to have religious-sounding words to pray or a five-step Bible-reading program to bask in that belovedness.
In the moments when you are most overwhelmed and you wonder if God’s goodness can really be trusted, take a look at the night sky, marvel at a photo of the universe, or close your eyes and imagine the stars lighting up all around you. Embrace the wonder of a child being woken up in the middle of the night to catch a glimpse of God’s handiwork illuminating the darkness of night.
Then, reflect on Isaiah 40:26, which invites you to:
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.”
May the stars remind you that even when you feel most alone, you are not missing to God. The Maker of the heavens and the earth calls you beloved. The presence of Christ says you are worth finding. The grace of God says the Maker of the stars delights in you.
The truth is that the One who set every star in the sky loves you.
The mysterious grace of God says you can set aside all the telescopes you think you need to be loved. God’s presence doesn’t require you to have anything special or do anything spectacular. Just as God breathed galaxies into existence, God knit you together in the womb. And just as the moon and the stars are ever-present — and yet sometimes unseen — we can trust that Jesus is with us, always.
How is the Maker of all things present in your real life, right here, right now?
As you reflect on that question, take a minute to simply breathe. As you deeply inhale and slowly exhale, marvel over God’s glorious love and gracious mercy that will never leave you or forsake you.