staring at stars

One summer night we gathered at a friend’s house to celebrate her birthday. I don’t remember how we got from her living room to the field on her grandparents’ farm; I just remember being there. And I don’t recall what we talked about that kept us awake long after the sun and the moon set. I don’t even remember if we got eaten up by bugs as we sprawled in that field, though surely we did.

What I remember most clearly are the “stars” we saw streaking across the sky that night. In the middle of nowhere on top of sleeping bags and quilts, we gasped as one — then one more, then more than we could count — meteor after another raced across the sparkly blanket above our heads. It was incredible.

Before that night I didn’t know meteor showers were real. I wouldn’t have believed that I would ever see stars falling from the sky like raindrops in the middle of a country field. But after that night, I knew. And I believed. And I’ve been waiting for an encore ever since.

Last week was the earth’s annual trip through the Perseids meteor shower — and it was predicted to be even more spectacular than usual, with up to 200 meteors an hour visible in the middle of the night. Since I now live in a small town, I decided to set my alarm for 2:00 am and see what I could see. Thursday night (early Friday) was supposed to be the peak night, but at my house it was cloudy and then rainy. So, undeterred, I tried again Friday night (early Saturday).

I stayed up watching a few episodes of Gilmore Girls and reading a few chapters of the book I was slogging through. (I’ve since given up on that book, but that’s another post.) Finally the moon was sliding down the sky, and according to my research (see: Google), it was prime time for spying falling stars. I slipped out to my back porch and looked up. I squinted my tired eyes and searched the sky. Then I eased into a slightly damp, plastic Adirondack chair and leaned back.

As I gazed upward — wondering if that was it? was that one? did I really see something? — I realized how desperate I was to get another glimpse of the celestial show I’d witnessed years ago. But in the end, it didn’t matter how intensely I stared at the sky. Our small town has just enough light to keep me from seeing any actual meteors falling (although my eyes definitely played tricks on the entire time I was out there).

But even though I didn’t see a meteor shower, something did become clear again.

Staring so hard at the night sky that my eyes began to burn, I was reminded of the folly and the beauty of hope.

Watching for falling stars reminded me of every time I applied for a new job, certain it was The One and a better match than me could surely not be found. It reminded me of the times I’ve lain in bed, listening for any sign that I’m the only one dissatisfied with going to sleep angry (or, at least, unresolved). It reminded me of a thousand times I’ve set every one of my senses on high alert, desperate for evidence that this time is different, that things are going to change, that I wasn’t crazy to take this path, that I’m not alone. I remembered how much it hurts to pray without ceasing until you’ve run out of words and energy, falling spent at the feet of Jesus, begging Him for one little sign.

Are you searching the darkness, desperate for a spark of light, right now?

Are your senses straining for a sign that it won’t be like this forever?

Are you over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-everything in an attempt to find your way, to find a solution, to find some help or relief or peace?

You’re not alone. You’re not alone in your hope. And your hoping is not wasted.

Searching for falling stars isn’t foolish; it’s hopeful. It’s grasping every indication that good still exists, that beauty can be found, that right can triumph. When you try again — and again and again and again — you aren’t alone, and you aren’t crazy. Your cause is not lost. Your story is not finished. And if you are brave enough to set your alarm for the middle of the night (again) to search for those stars, I applaud you. And I stand and search — and hope — with you.

Keep hoping, stargazers. Keep dreaming. Don’t give up. The Lord will renew your strength, and you are not alone. Keep searching for falling stars — and make that phone call, take the pregnancy test, pray one more time. Apply for the job, send the proposal, check the mail. Ask for the date, ask for forgiveness, ask for a raise. Believe and hope and dream and search.

The shooting stars are out there, even if you can’t see them yet.


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