and of the moon and stars you put in place.
I remember the first time I really noticed the moon. It was a cool, September evening, and I was eleven. Mom was cooking supper, and Dad was in his basement workshop, puttering. Time had gotten away from us, and except for the kitchen, the house was dark. “Go, put on some lights,” Mom said as she stirred a can of Campbell’s tomato soup into a frying pan filled with sizzling hamburger.
The front of our house faced the western shore of Lake Michigan, and as I walked through the dark rooms, I caught a glimpse of the harvest moon rising over the lake. It created a sparkling path across the water unlike anything I had ever seen. I gasped. “Mom! Dad! You gotta come see this!” The urgency in my voice made my parents rush to the room. I’m sure they thought that something was terribly wrong. “What?” Mom asked in a where’s-the-fire sort of way. What? How could she possibly not see? “The moon!” I answered in an exasperated tone. “What about it?” Dad wondered. “It’s beautiful!” I replied, pointing out the window. How could he not know? Mom and Dad exchanged a she’s-heading-for-puberty look and went back to their work. I felt hurt, and even a bit angry, that they couldn’t feel what was in my heart. There was something about that harvest moon that found a place deep in my soul. At the risk of sounding corny, it was almost like being in love.
For my twelfth birthday, I asked for and got a telescope. My birthday fell on the last night in February, a typical cold winter night in Wisconsin, but I bundled up and took my newly assembled telescope outside to look at the sky. For as long as I could stand the cold, I squinted through the telescope’s eyepiece marveling at the moon’s brightness, wondering what treasures lay on its surface. (These were the pre-moonwalk days when people liked to say, “The moon is made from green cheese.” If you’re curious about why, click here.) For the next several months, I spent many clear nights outside looking at the moon, studying its shadows and craters. Often, I got that loving feeling in my heart. I didn’t understand it, but I liked the sense of peace and wellbeing that came over me when I gazed through the telescope at the heavens. Then, just after sixth grade, I put my telescope away and headed into my teen years. I chose to follow the “in crowd” instead of the nerdy kids who joined the Astronomy Club. (My apologies to any Astronomy Club members out there, but that’s how I felt at the time.)
I rediscovered the night sky when I was sixteen. By then, I played the piccolo in my high school marching band. It was July, and we were on a summer band trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming for Frontier Days. Home was a school gymnasium on the edge of town. It was sweltering hot in the gym on our first night there, so some of us hauled our sleeping bags outside. We walked away from the brightly lit gymnasium entrance and alongside the building to the back of the school where there was a wide-open stretch of grass. I remember walking into the darkness and seeing the vast Wyoming sky overflowing with glimmering stars. There was no moon that night, just a sea of stars that had no beginning and no end. I got that feeling in my soul again, that same rush I had the first time I noticed the harvest moon. Then, about twenty-feet away, I saw, silhouetted, of one of our chaperones. He stood silently, unmoving, hands on his hips, looking upward. It was my dad. He finally got it. The stars that night caused that loving feeling to pour into his heart the way the moonlight filled mine when I was eleven. If he heard us coming, Dad didn’t turn around. We all stood there, without saying a word, in awe of the big, starlit sky.
Now, many years later, I have a better understanding of the feeling I get when I look at the night sky. It’s all about God. The psalmist David said it best in Psalm 8:3-4. “I often think of the heavens your hands have made, and of the moon and stars you put in place. Then I ask, ‘Why do you care about us humans?’” That feeling – the one I got when I was eleven and sixteen, the one I still get whenever I look at moon and the stars – is a deep sense of God’s love for me. It’s like when someone makes you a present. A handmade gift is more special than one you buy from a store; it touches a place deep in your heart. God made the moon and stars as a gift for us humans. How special is that? Like David, I wonder why God cares so much for us that He would give us such an awesome gift.
In Job 25:5-6, Bildad the Shuhite says, “Even the moon isn’t bright and the stars aren’t pure in God’s eyes. So, how about human beings? They are like maggots. How about mere people? They are like worms.” Okay, so maybe Bildad was being a tad dramatic, but he was pointing out that God is greater than His gift of the starry night sky. God is more perfect than anything else, and yet He loves us. Compared to Him, we are nothing. Still, He loves us and gives us wonderful handmade gifts like a harvest moon and a star-filled sky.
Tonight, go outside and look upward toward heaven. Put aside everything else, and study the stars. What lies beyond them is an even greater gift that we can’t begin to imagine. The moon and the stars are only the beginning. God’s love for us extends beyond them and all the way to forever. If that isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is.
Dear God, Who am I that you care so much for me? Sometimes, I feel like nothing. Then I look at the moon and the stars, and I remember that you love me, now and forever. Thank you, God, for your eternal, true love.