“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” Genesis 1:3-4 (NIV)
It was not the best start to my day. December 31, 2015 – New Year’s Eve – found me reflecting on my “state” if you will as the first day of 2016 approached. How am I moving into this year? I felt anxiety rise and a sense of tiredness. All this before even starting the New Year. Realizing that, frustration entered the emotional picture as well. Arrgghhh. I found myself asking God, “Why is it like this? Usually, I feel far more hopeful at the start of a year!” Instead, I’m unsettled, striving for something, harried, hurried, busy, worried, tense. I could go on. No immediate answer was forthcoming.
I left to go meet a friend of mine for coffee, dragging my body and my burdens as I slowly made my way to my car to scrape the windshield before taking off. A car pulled up – my spiritual director was stopping by the school to finish up some 2015 donation stuff. We chit chatted. Then I dumped it on him. “This is the worst start of a year that I have had in some time.” Wow. Bet he was glad he stopped and said hello. I was immediately remorseful. All that study in the Book of James last semester still didn’t help me control my tongue at that moment. But all he said was, “Well, you never know what the rest of the year will hold.”
I took off to meet my friend for coffee at a Starbucks in West Edmonton. As I approached, I felt the anticipation of a good time rise up in me. My friend has a beautiful, open, genuine spirit about her. We probably haven’t even chatted more than a few times, but we seem to bond easily. And I have to admire this single mom raising three kids. To be honest, I never start a “I’m busier than you” contest against someone with kids – you got one kid, you win! I deeply admire single moms. As for me, as a friend once advised me, “I am enough for me.” Anyway, we got our coffees and caught up, both of us sharing struggles, joys, plans and desires. Godly conversations with friends, where we seek God’s activity in each other, are invaluable and as we left to go our separate ways, I realized I felt quite uplifted. Maybe things weren’t so bad.
I drove home and began looking at Bible reading plans for the next year. How did I want to approach this in 2016? Chronological? Study one book only? Cover to cover? A mixture of Old and New Testament along with Psalms and Proverbs everyday? I’m a very orderly person and I chose to go with cover to cover this year. I had to resist the urge to read all of Genesis right then to get a jumpstart on the year. It feels good to have a plan.
Another friend of mine had posted on facebook about a couple of New Year’s Eve services that were occurring in the city. I decided to check out one at 8:00 pm on the southeast side of Edmonton. It was a bust. I entered the church, but very few people were there. Someone came up the stairs and when I asked about the service, they said there was none that night, just a movie night for the kids. I left a little discouraged. Was looking forward to a good word and I had not been to a New Year’s Eve service in quite some time. The other service my friend posted about was at Evangel Pentecostal and would start at 10:30 pm, so I had a couple of hours to kill before heading there.
I decided to chase the light. I had heard that because of a sunburst a couple of days prior, that it was highly likely we would be able to see the Northern Lights on New Year’s Eve, so I decided to drive north to see if I could get a glimpse. A couple of weeks ago, I had seen them for the very first time, and the experience left me quite moved by their beauty as they danced and spiraled in the sky, glowing green, red and purple, seemingly just for our enjoyment. At that time, I thought about what a marvelous Creator we have to create such beauty for us. After watching the lights that night, I knew I was hooked and would be seeking them out again. It was great to get an opportunity so quickly.
I headed northwest to see what I could see. An hour later, I was driving up St. Albert Trail towards Morinville. As I drove through St. Albert, their New Year’s Eve fireworks were going on and I wondered if I should stop and take in their beauty. I felt pulled, but I felt God say, “That’s man’s display – my display is better – come.” So, I gassed up in Morinville and headed further north. As I drove, I saw a large arc in the sky that was clearly northern lights, but it was too far off in the distance. Abandoning the chase and disappointed, I drove back south to Evangel for their New Year’s Eve service and was pleased to find my friend and her husband there, as well as some friends from school and church. The service was attended by people from a wide variety of cultures and our voices rose together in a truly joyful noise. Testimonies of pain overcome and blessings received and of God’s faithfulness were spoken out to encourage us all going forward. If there were any among us who were struggling, we certainly got to hear how God can turn that around, even against all odds! Then a service by two pastors and their insights with regards to the question: “Are we living in the end times?” A time of prayer at the altar, goodbyes said to my friends, and I returned home.
It was now 12:46 am on January 1, 2016. I checked an online application (aurorawatch.ca) to see if the lights were still supposed to be visible. Unbelievable – the probability was at 80%. I had to try again. I made a cup of yummy Bengal Spice tea and headed back out to my vehicle and back out on the roads. Was I crazy? I have never liked driving on New Year’s Eve, so really don’t usually go out on that night. Sure enough, it looked like mid-morning traffic on the roads – lots of cars. But I refused to give in to the fear and drove on – chasing the light.
This time, I ended up driving 100 km north on Route 28. I drove well past Lily Lake Village Resort. There was lots of traffic on the way, but the final 20 km or so was pretty sparsely driven. As I drove away from the city, it got very dark. Fears crept in. What if I crash – who will know? What if my car dies? What if I choose to drive down a road that ends right where the boogey-man is waiting for his next victim? Nobody knows where I am – what if I need help? It was very dark and the arc – its shape morphing subtly as I drove towards it, was beautiful, though not as spectacular as the event a couple of weeks ago. I looked out my window towards the west. And that made it all worthwhile. It is a very hard thing to explain, but it seemed as if I was IN the light. Tendrils of gossamer light reached down from the sky to earth, seemingly creating a thin place or a portal to the heavens – an ethereal forest of light beams of varying lengths and densities. Of course I was driving with my window open to see better and I imagined reaching up and touching the light. It felt like I was in a C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia story or another fairy-tale adventure story. I drove along wondering what would happen next.
I don’t know how far I would have gone if the road had not come to an end. Marvelling at the light in the darkness, thanking God for the beauty of his Creation was keeping me busy and happy as I continued my northern bound venture. But the road did indeed come to an end and there was no boogey-man there. So, I turned around and began the long trek home.
Somehow driving home I felt happy, satisfied, full and at peace – a far cry from the distraught feelings earlier in the day. I don’t know why. Maybe I just needed to see some friends. Maybe I needed to get my study plan settled. Maybe, just maybe, I need to make sure I carve out time to meet up with God in the beauty of his Creation without any other distractions around.