The Path of Totality

September 21, 2017

Raise your hand if you experienced eclipse regret.

I certainly did.

91% totality sounded pretty good, I didn’t understand the rush and the hassle of driving a few hours to see the moon cover the sun just a teensy bit more. I mean, really, we’d experience 91% just by stepping outside the door.

And it was fascinating– the light dimmed, moon shadows bejeweled the sidewalks and a stillness hung in the air. But when I walked up to the junior high for the moment of maximum exposure the kids were all confused– “That was it?” “But it didn’t get dark?”

I went home and dove headfirst into the images and videos (like the amazing ones in this post from my cousin Brook Richan) and exclamations pouring in on my computer from friends who’d stood in the path of totality. I was awestruck.

And I had to admit to myself– I didn’t experience 91% of the eclipse, I’d only glimpsed 1%. Even my friends in Boise who were at 99.6% caught only a fragment of the spectacle.

The next day, my Facebook feed was filled with eclipse regret. In hindsight, it’s easy to understand why so many of us didn’t quite make the effort to stand in the path of totality. August 21st was the first day of school and a roadtrip felt irresponsible, the partial eclipses we’d seen as children left us unimpressed, and honestly, despite listening to eclipse aficionados and watching virtual simulations, we just didn’t catch the vision.

My own regret and the clear example of what I’d missed, made me wonder. When it comes to my relationship with God, am I standing in the path of totality?

Much of the time, I tell myself, “91% is enough– I’m experiencing 91% of the blessings.” But really, it’s a fraction of a percent.

So I’ve been thinking, what does it mean for me to be in the path of totality? It doesn’t mean I need to attend the temple every day and never have a single grumpy thought. It’s a 67 x 3000 mile swath so there’s some wiggle room. But it does take effort.

For me, standing in the path of totality means dedicated scripture study and personal prayers where I sincerely speak the words, “Thy will be done.” It’s a simple formula– learned in Primary, referred to nearly every Sunday– and yet I’m amazed at how often I stray off that path. 99.6%, 91%, even 80% of my will offered to God, isn’t that enough?

I think I’m afraid to hand over that last bit of my will because I don’t actually trust my Father in Heaven. Maybe His will for me will be boring, or He’ll take way the things I love, or tell me not to pursue my passions?

And yet, when I step into that path of totality, I see WONDERS. My Heavenly Father introduces me to new people, He steers my interests onto better paths and clears my head and heart. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “…the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger life come flowing in.”

For now, I’m pushing aside my sorrow about the missed-eclipse-of-2017 and concentrating on turning my will to God. How can I come closer to my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ, how can I partake of the Spirit? And in 2024 I’ll be taking a road trip with my family. I don’t know exactly where we’ll stand to watch the moon slide across the sun, but it will be in the path of totality.

 

 

September 26, 2017

11 Comments

  1. Emily M.

    September 21, 2017

    We went. We had a really awkward air b&b experience and got home at 10:30 the night before the first day of school after a nine and a half hour drive. It took me a couple of weeks to feel on top of things again with that haphazard beginning to the school year. It was a hassle, and I hate hassles.

    But it was totally worth it. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it made me aware of the earth and the sun and the moon in a way I have never been before. I felt grateful to be there with my kids and to share this feeling of awe and wonder with them.

    I say this not at all to make you or anyone who missed out feel bad, but just to corroborate your main point: the path of totality is worth the hassle.

    The 2024 eclipse goes through Kirtland, so that’s something I hope we can do. Maybe we’ll see you there! 🙂

  2. acw

    September 21, 2017

    Love this analogy that so perfectly expresses my eclipse (non)experience and spiritual thoughts as well. High recommendations for the YA novel by Wendy Mass, Every Soul a Star, about eclipses and such: https://www.amazon.com/Every-Soul-Star-Wendy-Mass/dp/0316002577

  3. acw

    September 21, 2017

    and to continue the correlation–now that it’s been a couple weeks since that amazing experience, who can feel so now? are the sky fans still searching the heavens and learning about astronomy, or are we good for a few years?

    • Michelle L.

      September 21, 2017

      such a good question. I think a lot of people are searching the skies. Especially on Sept. 23rd. I don’t even pretend to know what these signs mean, but they are worth watching and pondering.

  4. KR

    September 21, 2017

    Interesting. I wonder if the path of totality, spiritually speaking, is where we get to know our Mother, too.

  5. Anne Marie

    September 22, 2017

    I love this, Michelle. Thank you so much for your thoughts. You’ve definitely given me lots to think about

  6. Sage

    September 22, 2017

    Michelle, This is delicious!

    I love how you brought these two ideas together. I will be thinking about it for a long time. I have been trying to let the Lord guide my life more and it is so much better than I could have decided on for myself.

  7. Michelle

    September 24, 2017

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  8. handsfullmom

    September 24, 2017

    Well said.

  9. EL

    September 24, 2017

    Yes and yes! As someone who lives only 30 minutes from the path of totality, even I was skeptical. Was is going to be worth the hassle, the traffic? But at the last minute, my husband took the day of work, we loaded the kids in the van and braved the traffic. And it was worth every second of hassle and more. One of the most awe inspiring and beautiful moment I’ve seen. The crowd cheered and tears sprung to my eyes. It was truly a wonder of God. And your analogy is perfect. The entire drive home my husband and I spoke of this exact topic and all of the other many parallels we could draw.
    I absolutely believe that these wonders of God are meant to teach us on so many levels, this being one of them for sure. Very well said, Michelle!

  10. Catherine

    September 28, 2017

    I loved this so much Michelle. I too had eclipse regret. I was so jealous of my Dad who wasn’t going to miss it despite his back surgery, and all my family in Idaho. No 90% even came close to the real deal. And your analogy here is beautiful. Totality in Christ’s path. I aim for that too. I love you!

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