October 31, 2011
I am told that a light year, the distance light travels in a year, is roughly 6 trillion miles. And that the stars overhead on a clear night are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of light years away. Hard to comprehend. … Even without those facts available to him, David the psalmist would look up at the night sky and be struck by his infinite smallness, what Pascal called our “absolute nothingness.”
Tonight, Gary (who rode his bike 50 miles on the morning he was diagnosed with brain cancer) and I took a short stroll (a 200 yard round trip, his new exercise routine) under a very clear autumn sky. We stopped a couple of times, to look up, to ponder, to talk about those stars, all that space, about all the miles that light had to travel to be visible from here. And how big, if there is a God (which we believe there is), He must be to encircle such a vast creation, and how precise He must be to regard the feathers of a sparrow.
We met with the doctors today, to have them interpret the MRI taken a week ago. The short version is a good news/not-so-good news report. The good news is that the tumor has not grown. The not-so-good news is that the tumor hasn’t shrunk. The doctors call it ‘stable’. We are choosing to see the glass half full, consistent with Gary’s comment to the doctors today, “just tell me the truth. It’s all good news to us.”
There is talk of some further treatment – more chemo and a promising new medicine – but we’re in a wait-and-see phase for now. Autumn is colorfully present and we get outside as much and for as long as we can each day. And our sense of reality is bathed in goodness. The Psalms of David, the letters of Paul, the music of Andrew Peterson, the prayers of the saints, the laughter of a brother who has nothing to lose anymore, the tears of a mother who cares with love that “passes understanding”, the constancy of the land that grows and then sleeps and then arises again, the unspoken affection of an old dog, the surprises that come from steel strings on a box of wood, the power of words on paper – oh, the blessing, the fullness, the promise of it all.
I’m not sure that I can say why it is such a consolation to look up on a clear, dark night. Why the bigness, and the reminder it is that we are so fragile and needy, would bring so deep a peace is beyond words to me. But at such a moment, as did the shepherd poet, I know beyond doubt that the Light behind the light, the Bigness behind the bigness, the Word behind the wordlessness, the He Who is over us is the comfort. The comfort that is longer than light years.