In case you haven’t heard, there’s a solar eclipse happening next Monday that’s kind of a big deal.
I live in Nashville, the largest city in the path of the total eclipse. Today, I drove past a school sign that announced classes would be canceled for the event. On the interstate, road alerts tell drivers to prepare for heavy traffic as the city expects an influx of up to 500,000 visitors.
If you want to fly into Nashville next week, tickets are running in the $700 price range. Oh, and lodging? Airbnb has a one bedroom apartment listed at $1,000 for the night. Some smaller towns and counties have even preemptively declared a state of emergency as they assume their infrastructure won’t be able to handle the expected crowds.
Why all the fuss over an event that, at its peak, will only last a few minutes? Well, the last time a total solar eclipse crossed the U.S. was in 1979. It won’t happen again until 2024. This makes witnessing a total solar eclipse a quite uncommon experience.
Rarity = Wonder
It’s the rarity of an eclipse that creates a sense of wonder. If eclipses happened every day, they wouldn’t seem impressive. This is because regularity causes even spectacular events to lose their luster.
Case in point, you likely brushed aside some extraordinary sights today simply because you’re used to them. Take blue skies and sunsets for example. What if the sky was always overcast, but every 50 years or so it turned blue for a few precious minutes? Or what if the sun only set once a century? People would flock to see such events. However, because blue skies and sunsets happen all the time, they’re often overlooked. Sadly, we tend to ignore common grace when it becomes commonplace.
Do You Marvel at God’s Image in Your Neighbor?
This kind of glory apathy can be especially apparent when it comes to how we view the epicenter of God’s creation: people. Scripture says no creature, geographic feature, or celestial body in the universe depicts the image of God in the special way a human does (Genesis 1:26-27). Yet, when was the last time you marveled at the ability to witness God’s image in your neighbor?
Living on a globe populated with God’s image bearers is our everyday normal. However, as a former pastor of mine once said, given the size of the known universe, the image of God stamped on humanity is an incredibly rare find.
To get a sense of this, take 209 seconds to watch this video depicting the size of earth compared to the known universe. As you do, consider that in the vast wonder-filled chasm of space, God chose this tiny pinprick of a spinning ball to form creatures made in His image – creatures He died to save:
A video like this demonstrates how seldom God’s image bearers appear in the scope of the universe. It shows how being able to interact with other humans – having the chance to love them, serve them, and share the gospel with the lost – is an exceptional privilege. When we forget this, it’s easy to devalue people, get frustrated with them, and even display hatred (consider recent events).
And so, I propose a challenge. Take in next week’s eclipse to the glory of God. Let the rarity of such an astronomical event cause you to delight in our Creator. But as soon as the eclipse is over and the protective glasses come off, look around. Look at the people who are standing by you and marvel at the extraordinary opportunity you have to interact with these unique creatures who bear God’s image.
In the great expanse of the universe, humans are a rare find. Thankfully, God has formed a special glory-cluster of image bearers and has put His church in the middle of it for the sake of Christ’s mission. Much like God’s design for the second act of an eclipse, it’s for the purpose of calling people out of darkness and into marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).