‘Once in a lifetime’ carries a sense of urgency. It’s a phrase that stirs ‘I don’t want to miss it’ feelings deep inside thoughtful people. Having not been very thoughtful about it, and therefore not giving it much value, we almost missed it. But Ross sat in the back seat and read aloud the results from his Google search. Once in a lifetime. The cab of my truck began stirring. ‘We can’t miss this.’
But I knew immediately a different agenda was gripping my heart. Monday’s eclipse had been a point of interest for me, but not one that would significantly alter the day. There is too much work to do. But as my son became enthralled with the event about to take place in our galaxy, I became sharply aware of the event about to rock my world—the last of four leaving home. An event that only happens once—the day a college freshman moves into the dorm.
So with help from Marshall Jones, we made a last-minute Sunday evening plan to hike the Appalachian Trail to Siler Bald. We packed our gear and purchased the essentials (coffee, beef jerky, Chunky Chicken Noodle soup), made it to the trail way past my bedtime, and hiked two miles in the dark. We woke to the sunrise in our hammocks, and after breakfast hiked the remaining six miles. Mostly alone on the trail, Siler Bald proved to be an eclipse destination spot.
Chris had driven up from Atlanta with his white Labradors, Charlotte and Sterling. He told us that the point of Siler Bald reminded him of a scene from Woodstock—a mass of hippie-like people who had been camping there for eight days. Eight days without a bath. We decided to string our hammocks at the edge of the field, and watch from a safe distance. Fried tortillas with honey accompanied our hot tea, and while stretched in my hammock waiting for the big event, Ross read aloud from his book, Masters of the Orchestra.
I will make no attempt to put words to our experience. I’m told the monks used to say, “Speak, but only if you can improve on the silence.” Our eight-mile hike back to the truck was filled with silence. The experience made us think about stuff—big stuff. Like, why is it that the world so often seems eclipsed from the things that really matter? Why do we chase after things that block light and hold back warmth? It seems that so much of the world’s pain is avoidable. I wonder how often the church is in the dark too. These days can seem disproportionately filled with heavy criticism toward the institutional church. My friend Rodney proclaims with passion, “The institution is worth saving. The church is the world’s only hope.” And I believe him.
The ‘off to college’ event helped me feel hope. As we drove home from Boston, I was aware that the eclipse of my heart wasn’t total, even though the sidewalk goodbye in front of the Berklee College of Music was quite painful. We had just ‘turned him loose’ on the world—a young man filled with such life and passion and song. The world will not be the same for it.
And shouldn’t it be the same with us? Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). God has turned us loose. Let’s not miss the opportunity.