(originally posted on 2/6/13)
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I remember back in Junior High, being fully enamored with a farm I often visited. The farm, belonging to my friend’s grandparents wasn’t active, but still had all the rural charm and glory of a traditional, working New England farm. I always loved taking trips there . . . running in the orchards, playing hide and seek in the fields, sitting high up in the hayloft of the barn—looking out over acres and acres of green expanses. Being there felt perfect. As we got a bit older, we’d visit the farm less frequently, and when we would visit, it would usually be at night—typically to use the awesome land for . . . (ahem) social “celebrations” with bigger crowds. Though there were undoubtedly exciting, crazy adventures during parties on that farm, what I remember most about the ‘nightlife,’ is how magnificent the sky looked, the breathtaking illumination. Far removed from any urban atmosphere veiling their awesomeness, the stars in the dark night on the farm shone the brightest, appearing almost within arms reach—touchable . . . heavenly in fact.
John and I recently recalled a conference from years ago, and though neither of us can remember the main topic at the conference, what we both do remember—is a speaker’s simple little exemplum of sorts . . . one that may be well-known to some of you. For us, the imagery was simple, yet powerful. The story was about a father trying to explain heaven to his son one evening:
Living in “Big Sky” country, this Montana-family enjoyed vast, wide open spaces on their beautiful farm. The little boy in the story loved to play with his matchbox cars in his little secret place under the house. He loved this special spot under the floorboards of the house, and there he would quietly build and create little roads and hills, houses and garages for his cars. Though he could hear everyone walking about inside, they never knew he was just below, playing.
One evening sitting at dinner, the young man turned to his father and asked “What’s heaven like?” His father thought about it for a moment and said, “Well son, you know underneath the house where you play with your cars?” The boy had no idea that anyone knew about this secret hideout, so a bit embarrassed, he smiled and nodded his head.
His dad continued, “Well tonight after dinner I want you to go down where you play with your cars underneath the floorboards of the house and this time look up at the underneath side of the floorboards. Then I want you to meet me outside in the pasture.”
Obediently after dinner, the boy crawled underneath the house to his quiet, private play space and looked up. He was shocked at what he found. Rusty nails sticking through the floorboards, dozens of cobwebs clinging altogether with large spiders and nests in the corners, dirt and splinters that have been wedged between the cracks in the floorboards and shredded insulation mixed with glue and tar. He quickly gathered up his cars and crawled back from under the disgusting floorboards vowing never to go under there again.
He then went to his father standing in the middle of the field. It was a crystal clear night sky and the moon shone brightly while the stars brilliantly twinkled, some even dancing across the sky—perhaps one of the most beautiful night skies he had ever seen.
Pointing up to the sky, the boy’s father said, “Son, while I don’t know exactly what heaven is like, I know that it’s up there, and that it is more beautiful than we can ever imagine. But do you see how beautiful the night sky is tonight? Think of it this way—this gorgeous, beautiful, brilliant sky is the floorboards of heaven. What you saw under the house was grimy, dirty, and disgusting, yet compared to heaven that’s what the sky looks like. Heaven is more beautiful, more brilliant and more unimaginably spectacular than we will ever know.“
As the little boy and his father stood there looking up at the gorgeous floorboards of heaven, the boy had just a little better idea of what heaven is like.
I just love that. It’s such a simple, profound reminder that this side of heaven will never equate to that perfect destination we all hope to see one day. Even in the beauty of creation around us, with all those stars in the sky . . . they’re all mere floorboards to what’s waiting on the other side.
Living closer to the city, far away from a serene, rural setting—it’s always harder to see the stars as brightly as my memory on the farm. The fact is, the view isn’t as easy … no front row seat. You really have to look to see them shine in all their splendor.
Staying grounded in Faith is a choice, not a feeling. Sometimes, when the shadows of my “night” close in around me—even becoming pitch black at times, my sky seems void of light. How can I find my way back to the farm, that awesome farm where the chaos and clamor of this world (those city lights) don’t block the very luminosity of the stars high above? Stars give off light in the dark whether we realize it or not. It’s their very luminosity that lights the path for those who are stuck in darkness. It is our job, as believers to look beyond, knowing there’s a path lit . . . even when you desire that easy, “big sky” view.
This road I’m traveling on is a dark one . . . fatigue, fear, pain, insecurity, confusion—just some of the cobwebs under my floorboards. My prayer though is to follow the brilliant glow of the stars, regardless of how distant they may appear. When I need those stars to burn brighter—I need to find my way back to the farm in the simple things, those little moments of joy often overlooked: watching my gorgeous boys laugh and play . . . running with my dog . . . getting a little wink from John across the room . . . laughing with friends . . . singing in the shower . . . shopping with mom . . . extra dry non-fat cappuccinos . . . and just living to love.
If those beautiful stars are but the floorboards of Heaven, what possible dark shadows along this rocky path of life can hinder me from living with joy in each moment.
This old Irish proverb says it best: “Drop to your knees and give thanks that you can stand.” Too much time is wasted on dwelling on the rusty nails . . . the cancers of joy and peace.
Thank you all for twinkling bright in my neck of the woods . . . your encouragement, inspiration and love are without doubt helping me get back to the farm.
With love, light and hope . . .