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  • Tim Patterson

Eclipsing our fears



PLYMOUTH – A total solar eclipse will take place at the Moon's ascending node on Monday, April 8, 2024, visible across North America, and dubbed the Great North American Eclipse by many in the media. Many of us here in Michigan will be able to see a partial eclipse, but for the closest place to see a full eclipse we would have to travel south into Ohio near Bloomville or Norwalk.

 

Solar and Lunar eclipses have been recorded in historical records, writings, and hieroglyphs for thousands of years. Accompanying many of those ancient records were hundreds of different myths and legends about the source, substance, and omens concerning these heavenly events.

 

Eclipses generated panic, fear and feelings of doom and impending destruction. A sense that the world would soon end and a great evil would follow the solar phenomenon. To cope with this unknown and inexplicable occurrence, many cultures would create myths and stories to explain and to rationalize these terrorizing episodes.


  • In ancient Colombia the people could be found shouting and crying to the heavens that they would work harder and mend their evil ways.

  • It is said that the Chippewa tried to shoot flaming arrows into the darkened sun to ignite its flame that had been extinguished.

  • The Norse people imagined that the gods had placed Loki in chains and to secure revenge, he created two giant heavenly wolves in which one would swallow the sun and the other the moon.

  • Those who at one time lived in Transylvania, had a similar perspective as did the ancient Columbians in that they believed an eclipse was the result of the angry Sun turning away from mankind because of its bad behavior.

  • One that surprised me a bit is from the Benin people of West Africa. They believed that the sun and moon were male and female respectively and were very busy moving about the heavens, but when they came together, they turned out the lights for privacy.

 

Even today, a popular misconception is that solar eclipses can be a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children. In many cultures, young children and pregnant women are asked to stay indoors during a solar eclipse. Scientists and astronomers around the world have debunked any such claims. There is no scientific evidence that solar eclipses can affect human behavior, health, or the environment. Scientists, however, do emphasize that anyone watching a solar eclipse must protect their eyes. And I would highly advise you to use only certified eclipse viewing lenses if you want to take a glimpse of the celestial event.

SUNGLASSES WILL NOT DO! You could seriously damage your eyes otherwise.

 

So many times in life, the things which we do not understand can, as did eclipses in ancient times, generate panic, fear, feelings of doom and impending destruction. It may be a phone call from your physician informing you of some invasive disease or renegade malignancy that has taken over your body. You don’t understand its origin and to be honest, the medical experts are as perplexed as you.


An automobile accident takes place or an incident at work and your future becomes dark, foreboding and filled with fear.


World affairs and political chaos seem so out of control that fear of the future for yourself, and your loved ones has gripped your heart and soul like a giant boa constrictor, causing all faith and hope to be squeezed out like some mangled tube of toothpaste.

 

It’s during these times of the unknown and misunderstood that we have the tendency to create myths that mollify our confusion and give reason to our ignorance. That’s what we do in our frail, fragile and fallen condition. In place of trusting Him who is the Creator of all that is, and holds us in the palm of His hands, we generate excuses, explanations, and stories that have nothing to do with reality.

 

Proverbs 3:5 is clear when it says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

 

Looking back at the myths surrounding an eclipse has been quite enlightening and at times humorous. Yet, looking back deeply into my life and the myths I have created concerning the unknown and inexplicable, instead of trusting God, is not that funny.

 

There has never been a time when the God of all the universe has not provided for me and met me at the greatest point of my need. He holds the future and yes, He holds me! The old Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier said it well.

 

I know not what the future hath

Of marvel or surprise,

Assured alone that life and death,

His mercy underlies.

 

May we never forget the verse of a “new” song we sing.


All my life You have been faithful.

All my life you have been so, so good.

 

So no matter how dark it becomes or how frighteningly unknown the future may be, just know that He who is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End is still on the throne and in control.


 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.



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