I went to a park near my house one day to finish reading an essay called “Imagination and Community,” from Marilynne Robinson’s excellent When I Was a Child I Read Books.
To give an idea of the amount of trees in this park, it is a small forest. It was likely to be a bit cold in the shade, so I took a light jacket. I found a playground and tried to settle on a swing. This was a little uncomfortable, so I sat in the sawdust and leaned against the ladder of some monkey bars.
The weather was actually quite nice. Far from a cloud-filled sky. Still, as I sat there reading, I found some of my efforts to enjoy the sun frustrated by the clouds. The sun came and went, and watching the sun when it broke through the clouds was a fun distraction from the essay. I found myself checking the sunlight’s general progress across the clearing as the morning passed, which was also delightful to see.
At one point I discovered a spider crawling on my leg. I don’t know how it got there without me noticing. I made a startled movement and a noise, and the spider jumped to the sawdust. I watched my new friend for a second to see if it would crawl away. It left. For a few moments I was anxious that it would return, but it did not.
A tangential memory: Once, during my time at University of Portland, a ladybug hid in my backpack and hitched a ride with me across campus.
At one point I noticed that the clouds were moving rather quickly. In a few minutes the sun would be out in full force. In the meantime, I noticed something peculiar.
I could see the sun through the clouds. I thought at first maybe it was the moon, but it wasn’t. It was the sun, obscured by the clouds and safe to look at. Based on what followed in my eyes, I don’t recommend doing this often, but it was an interesting experience. It reminded me of the Miracle of the Sun. Of course, the people in Portugal saw the sun in the open sky.
Once that sun finally emerged from the clouds, it was about as dangerous to my eyes as anything short of God.
It is misguided to say that the world is beautiful if we mean that it only looks beautiful. If it is beautiful, then it is beautiful in the rain and in the sunshine alike. But the sun can help us see its beauty, and maybe this is otherwise helpful. Sometimes it takes the sun to reveal the beauty of the world, and even more it takes God to reveal the beauty of others, of who they are and are meant to be. The sun serves God by day just as the moon serves the sun by night. It does for the world what God does for persons.
A recognition: Sun-worship is an understandable mistake.
Maybe when we can stare at the beauty of God without dying, we will be able to stare at the sun in the open blue sky and keep our sight. And we will see both nature and persons as they were meant to be, illuminated by the Father of Heavenly Lights.
For now, I can cherish moments like that morning. I can ponder things like seeing the sun safely through the clouds and averting my eyes when they move. Maybe the thing to do–in moments like that, at least–is to thank the sun for shining, and thank the God that it serves.
This is a revision of a piece originally posted on keyboard theologians on 5/17/2012; the 3/24/2014 version was posted during the old Darganflayer / Embassy XIV blog era.