Remembering the Total Solar Eclipse on Good Friday

Last summer we headed for the path of totality.

It was the middle of August when we set out for Sublimity in the pickup. It 's my favorite season here in Oregon: sunshine, cornflower skies, and fat blueberries, ripe and sweet in the dusty fields.

We bought the cardboard glasses.

We studied the maps.

We gathered the supplies: big kids, hoodies, fraying quilts, chunky homemade Monster cookies, the good camera, and dark-roast coffee. Before the day fully dawned, clear and bright, we piled into the pickup and drove to an open field between farmlands.

It felt like a party. Like the gathering energy of an outdoor concert before the music, that tightening spring of creativity, curiosity, community, and awe, before it's sprung. It was called the Great American Eclipse.

I suspected it was all of that and something more.

I had a few questions then,

What would it feel like to have the sun go dark in the middle of the day?

Would that shadow make me afraid?

Wouldn't something like that change me ever after?

Despite the dark shadow over emerald grasslands, my first solar eclipse was more celebration than somber. It was splendidly eerie on every level.

As the moon moved in front of the sun . . .

Sounds were high and clear. Then deathly quiet.

Time had a sense of being compressed and then stretched like an accordion, possibly even torn in the making of the music. I suddenly glimpsed God's view of time - a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.

I don't know if I actually tasted mingling metals or just sensed it in the quality of the light, mixing copper, silver, and all the golds.

Ethereal. It is not too dramatic to say the light was spanning worlds. Like time, the light on either side of darkness was pushed and pulled as happens in a fish-eye, time-lapse video.

The kids said it was like a dream.

When the darkness came, for just a few seconds, I felt cold wrapping around my ankles, seeping up from below like a damp concrete basement.

I had never experienced a total eclipse of the sun. Never had it come so near to where I lived. Certainly, I had never put myself in its shadowy swath as it cut black across the land.

It had some of the markings of Good Friday to me.

And here we are in that liminal space of Easter weekend.

As I come crashing into Holy Week, I am trying with resolve and grit not to head directly for Easter Sunday. I am simply standing in the arduous days beforehand. I remind myself to be present on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. No running away or distracting myself.

My natural inclination is to just leap over the dark and get to the light - the sunnier, hope-ripened, joy-filled part of Easter where I can celebrate new life and the no-longer-suffering Jesus, sweet and risen from the grave. But I am resisting that tendency to skip over the darkness. Oh, help me resist! I don't want to miss what was really happening.

Depending on how far you ventured into the path of totality, the solar eclipse lasted no more than 2 minutes, forty seconds. The darkness on Calvary took up a full three hours.

That comes to the neighborhood of 67.5 times my total solar eclipse experience within the path of totality.

Now consider my eclipse questions in the darkness of Golgatha,

What would it feel like to have the sun go out in the middle of the day?

It is easy to imagine that the Crucifixion was drastically deeper, wider, darker, colder, eerier, quieter, and time-warping than my total solar eclipse experience. Waves must have rippled across the starry sands of the whole universe. What in the world happens when the sun isn't just covered but quits shining?

That kind of darkness had to be so cold that time froze along with men's hearts. How in this world did we survive it?

My darkness must be deep if, for Jesus to take it on and beat it once and for all, it stopped the sun from shining.

Here, it helps me to remember something Corrie Ten Boom said,

"No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still."

Would that shadow make me afraid?

Very much afraid, I'm afraid. If Jesus was afraid, and the gospel of Mark says He was, I would be petrified. Maybe we really can turn to stone from fright.

I would not be making cookies.

Wouldn't something like that change me ever after?

After three hours of darkness on Golgatha, some went right on with life as they knew it. I might have been one of them.

I am afraid of that.

When I was a kid, I did a fair amount of sleepwalking. Give her half of a second and my mama will tell you I'd walk around the house with my eyes wide open, even talk to her. But my eyes were glazed over. She soon recognized the look, realized I was really still sleeping and sent me back to bed.

I'm trying to shake my soul awake from that kind of sleep, the kind of sleep that is unaware of what is underfoot even while walking through it. The kind of dead asleep that leaves Jesus to pray alone in the garden to the point of bloody sweat.

I'm trying to stay awake, but I keep nodding off.

It is good to find who we might resemble in the days of Holy Week. Are we Mary breaking the alabaster jar? Are we the disciple Jesus loved so dearly, leaning on his heart? Are we Judas, betraying Jesus with a kiss? Are we Peter doing the very thing we swore we'd never do?

Finding who we are capable of being in the walk beside Jesus to the cross can definitely rouse us from sleep. At least we hope so. Nailing a human being to a rough plank of wood and standing around to watch his slow and suffering death should turn our hearts to stone just to witness the violence.

But the question I am trying to get at is deeper and darker still. It has nothing to do with me. And everything.

What was God doing in Christ on that abandoned cross? What was He doing to Himself for me?

I have to ask myself,
Am I more afraid of what I would do to Jesus (or will do) or what God did to Him for love of me?

God turned away and the sun went out.

For all that is holy about Holy Week, that is terribly unholy. The agony and abandonment of Jesus by God is a God eclipse. On Good Friday, Jesus got right into the path of totality of a total eclipse of God and that is what is wrecking me this year.

God loved me as far down as He could go, farther even than this world could handle. His descent snuffed out the sun.

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God.

G.K. Chesterton

Last summer during the solar eclipse, I only got a taste of such darkness and the cold that seeps into your bones along with it. On Skull Hill, Christ descended into our full darkness and brought back Light.

Standing still in the dark land of Good Friday makes me feel the edge of the agony Jesus endured and know the corona of God's love for me. The edge of the deep darkness where Jesus ventured for my sake is crashed through by the brilliant sun shining around it.

And the Light wins. The Light always wins.

For last summer's thoughts and family photos, check out solar eclipse 2017.