It was a relatively rare event, a solar eclipse. On Aug. 21, we all had something in common. Our hearts and minds were focused together on one thing, the eclipse of the sun.
I happened to be at home at about 2:30 p.m. when the eclipse took place. The high school behind our home had loud speakers blaring Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” just minutes before the moon blocked the sun’s rays.
I walked into our back yard with three of our four dogs. As the shadow began to cover the yard, I was surprised. I found I was deeply moved by the event. I suddenly began to weep.
What came over me?
What caused a wave of emotion to sweep over my consciousness? I think it was the realization that a rare occurrence was uniting millions of people all at the same time. We were all together in our curiosity and in our sense of wonder.
We were united in curiosity and wonder as we marveled at what nature takes in her stride. I stood in awe of the fact that an often-divided group of people realized we had something in common, if only for a few minutes. The sun got our unified attention — and for just a few minutes — we stood, and sat and walked as one.
I thought, “This is how it ought to be; and this is the way it is, though we refuse to recognize it.”
Those thoughts caused me to weep. I think that’s why people of faith and their Scriptures place so much focus on unity.
Psalm 133:1 states, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”
Our sinful tendency is to build more walls than bridges. We currently see critical division and separation in our society. We celebrate what makes us different and we neglect that which makes us similar. We defend our choice to build more walls than bridges. There are many logical reasons for our divisive ways. However, there is more to life than logic.
We develop many excuses for our lack of unity. We pile up lists of reasons why we should not be joined to this person or with that group. But deep down, we long for unity. We desire and wish a moment when everybody has, at least, one thing in common. I believe it was that wish which made me weep at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 21.
A Christian leader, William Sloan Coffin, once said: “We have more in common than we have in conflict.”
Maybe Coffin was right. I certainly hope so. From where does my hope come?
I am sure some of my hope comes from the kindness of the folks who raised me. We are never that far away from our families or our primary caregivers. A teacher of psychotherapy once told me, “We are every age we have ever been.”
But I think this desire also is based in how God made us, according to Genesis 1:27: “So God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
We are created in the very image of unifying love and ongoing care. For that reason, “We have more in common than we have in conflict.” This is the way it is, although we often choose to ignore “the way it is.”
On Aug. 21, I wept in the minutes before, during and after the solar eclipse. I wept over the beauty of unity, common purpose and focus. I also wept over the lack of such beauty in American culture today.
The great prophet, Jeremiah, has often been called “The Weeping Prophet.” That a prophet of God might weep should tell us something.
Maybe the shedding of tears is a good place to start. Maybe personal and communal transformation begins with tears.
Luke 19:41: “As he (Jesus) came near the city, He wept over it…”
John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”
Jesus cried when important and life-giving things were absent. Jesus cried when things were broken. Jesus cried when things were not as they should be. That could be a great beginning place for change in our world and in our lives.
No wonder Eastern Orthodox Christians talk about “The Gift of Tears.” There are many things in this world that are worth crying over. Maybe the gift of tears can help clear our lenses and open our eyes.
The Rev. Larry Isbell is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Columbus. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.