As I was having lunch with my best friend the day after the total solar eclipse, I told her that I had new, but asked her not to laugh at me. She said she couldn’t promise until she knew the news. “For my natural science requirement at Clemson, I am not going to take geology. I am going to Astronomy,” I explained. She didn’t laugh, but she was at a loss for words.
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about my extreme fear of all comic events. It is called Kosmikophobia. You can read about it here. In this article, I explained my history of what some consider an irrational fear of things such as solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, comet showers, full moons that are orange, and more. I also stated that I would be hiding in the library on campus perhaps even having a bit of a panic attack.
But that isn’t what happened. I decided to mix with the crowds of what has been estimated at 50,000 viewers on the Clemson campus. The day was complete with the Tiger band, food trucks, music, weather balloon launches, and commentary from Rick Brown, a renowned solar eclipse chaser. It was a hot and humid day with very few clouds, the perfect day to view the eclipse.
I texted my friend from the event as the moon began to make it’s way across the path of the sun. I texted that I was getting nervous, but staying put outdoors. I was required to be on campus that day, so was not able to the view the event with family or friends. I sat on the grass near the event tent and crowd. A young girl about nine years old sat near me and we began a conversation. Because of my own traumatic childhood, I have a keen awareness of how vulnerable children can be to the fear imposed on them by adults. I had to put on my “brave face” for her and her sister then joined us.
As the eclipse progressed to totality, I was overcome with a sense of wonder. Rick Brown explained that some people would have an emotional or spiritual reaction to the eclipse. Watching the dance of the planets in the universe unfold in front of me filled me with a sense of awe. The concept struck me that God was certainly in all of this. The crowd was silent during the totality, but I felt their presence. I also sensed the presence of family and friends who has passed from this life on earth. I was reminded of a verse from the Bible.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us : Hebrews 12:1 (New International Version).
In this few minutes, my fear of the cosmos and cosmic events left me just as the darkness from the eclipse left our view and the sun returned to its full brightness. I can’t explain how 60 plus years of fear was eradicated in those few moments, but I was fully aware of a new sense of wonder about the vast universe in the control of God.
I remembered the words of Donald Miller from his book Blue Like Jazz as tears filled my eyes.
There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her.
I have had some time to process all that happened during the Solar Eclipse of 2017. The feeling of fear has not returned. I am excited about registering for classes next semester. Astronomy will be first on my list!