Every summer, people from all over the country travel to my hometown in rural Nebraska to look into our unpolluted night skies. Cows outnumber people here and they don’t feel the need to chase away the dark with artificial lights. They remind us to admire the genuine stars of the night.
I suppose fish outnumber people in the Bahamas. Fish, like cows, are disinterested in non-celestial light sources so the night skies of rural island beaches are generally pristine.
I sat on one such light-free beach with a handful of friends last January. They audibly marveled at the clarity of the stars glowing against the dark sky.
I did not. Maybe they had never seen stars like this.
From the depths of their hearts, they sang hymns to their Creator for the skyscapes He had made.
I could not. Maybe I was jaded.
Tugging along my heart that wouldn’t sing, I walked down the beach until my friends’ voices dimmed. Blind with the night, I dug one finger into the thick, sandy earth and scrawled out the only words my heart was willing to mumble:
when I see stars, that’s all they are
It was no triumph to release my secret to the darkness. The words were not even my own but lyrics echoed from a popular band.
I knew the tide would wash away my scratchings by morning or unseeing feet would wear them away without apology. The light of the sun would have no chance to illuminate the evidence of my hollow heart. The night and I would keep it our secret.
_ _ _
They told us we couldn’t swim here on the south side of the island. The waves were stronger than what we were used to on the west side. We could wade, but no swimming.
At this, Rachel and Felissa ran by me, stripping to bathing suits and bare feet. They splashed into the ocean. Others followed. It wasn’t long before we fell into the waves—against our instructor’s permission.
When I ventured into the ocean’s grasp it pulled me out towards the depths with stifling power then crashed me back to the shore. And again and again before I could escape its fist.
Was this the God I could not find trace of in the too-familiar night sky?
Water rushed into my mouth, the salt in it stinging as it scoured through my nose.
Was I supposed to be learning a lesson about ignoring the Creator’s hand in His masterpiece? Would He crush me without thought in this wilderness?
At last I sprawled onto the hard, dry sand, free of the waves. On hands and knees I crawled clear of the unfathomable ocean. It would not take me. Not today.