Our last January in West Africa, we took the family camping at a nearby game park.
We camp a lot in the States – sometimes even in some pretty out-of-the-way places, but that was the first time I’d ever camped in Africa, under an African sky, in a really remote location. No city lights. No electricity. No paved roads. No leaving the campsite without a guide in a vehicle or with an armed guard when on foot. Hippos and elephants nearby in the river. Lions hunting on the other side of the rocky ridge that sheltered the campsite.
In some ways, it was surreal, like something I’d only see on a television show on one of those nature or documentary type channels back in the States; I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was really real. Yet in other ways, it really felt a whole lot like “regular” camping with our gang back in Michigan.
Except for one thing.
Want to know the one thing that was totally, vastly, drastically different?
It seems kind of funny to see those words… to hear myself think them… For, no matter where in the world you or I stand, we can gaze upon the same sun, the same moon, many of the same stars and constellations, the same celestial bodies…
Not since I was a child growing up on the wide open US plains do I remember gazing up at such an sweeping expanse, unbroken by trees or buildings or telephone poles… unbroken by anything. Never before had the stars seemed so numerous or the moon so bright, thanks to nearby electricity -for even if there were no lights in the immediate vicinity, there always were, just over the next hill or distant grove of trees.
Watching… staring… at that sky… was nothing less than remarkable!
During the day, the sun appeared closer – bigger, brighter and more blinding than I’d ever noted before. At night, the moon was full and so bright that even my ever-becoming-more-and-more-night-blind self could see clearly and walk to the bathroom without fear of scorpion or snake while not using a flashlight. The rest of the sky appeared a dappling of stars almost blending into white clouds rather than the sometimes sparse sometimes smattering pinpoints of bright light I was accustomed to viewing. Both sun and moon shared that expansive space although on opposing horizons each morning and night.
Most remarkable was discerning, for the first time ever, the actual path those cosmic bodies traced across the sky. Early evening as the sun set and darkness deepened, juxtaposed, the moon rose and myriads of stars appeared, just peeking over the edge of the eastern horizon. Late into night, “tracking” a group of lions or spotting mongoose and honey badgers, I’d note that the moon and stars had migrated overhead. In the wee hours of the next morning, sipping coffee by the while getting the gumption to coax sleeping toddler littles and teen biggers out of bed, those same heavenly bodies had completely traversed the sky to the western skyline and then quickly submerged out of sight.
Nearing the end of our term and weary after combating several successive seasons of fatigue and burnout, tracing these sky routes was a gift, a reminder from God’s creation just when I needed refreshing.
I’d begun viewing life as only a pattern of day and night, one after the other, monotonous, numbing and purposeless in its repetition. While real and valid, my perspective limited what I was able to see.
Thankfully, perspectives are not written in stone; they can change.
A different, altered outlook can proclaim the very same cyclic monotony “revolutionary:”
- of openings and closings…
- of pushing and pulling…
- of starting, persevering and finishing
- of arrivings, continuings, migratings, traversings and departings…
- of beginnings culminating in endings sparking new beginnings…
- of opportunities mixing with impossibilities…
Perspectives can not only change.
Their contrasts can also compliment.
One can help bring the other more starkly into focus, just as the moon on one side of the sky highlighted the sun’s brilliance in reflecting the same light that emanated from the opposing horizon.
May 2015 be a year of changing old, worn and wrong outlooks.
May it be a year of recognizing and renewing those complimenting perspectives as well.
How about you?
How do you think God might be planning to grow and change you as you minister this next year?
*Originally published as Competing or Contrasting? Choices for 2013... at Missionary Mom's Companion and slightly edited for A Life Overseas. *Moon photo - Dick Stewart, Captured Memories Lansing