Monday, August 3, 2009

The Shine (by Billy Coffey)

I am sitting on the hood of my truck atop Afton mountain on a warm July night, taking the opportunity to do something I once did often but now not nearly enough.


I was six when my parents bought me my first telescope, a twenty-dollar special from K Mart. It was made of cheap plastic and the lens wasn’t very powerful, but to me it was magic. I spent countless nights in the backyard squinting through that telescope, peering into lunar seas and gazing at Saturn’s rings. I was spellbound.

As I grew older, the stars began to serve another purpose. They were my refuge, a physical manifestation of an inner longing to break free from both earth and life and fly away. The night sky was my perspective. Looking around always made everything seem so enormous and consequential. Looking up always reminded me of how truly small everything was.

Now? I suppose now those two sentiments mingle, swirled together in my heart as a patina that washes me in both awe and longing. I gaze up to gaze within and know my truest self – that both darkness and light can blend to form a scene of beauty and wonder. That despite whatever misgivings I may have, I can shine.

I lean back against the windshield, place my hat on a raised knee, and stare. Above me is what a friend refers to as “a Charlie Brown sky.” Pinpricks of light are cast in a sort of perfect randomness, as if God has sneezed a miracle.

I am not alone here. There are about twenty other people scattered along this overlook, fellow viewers of nature’s television. An awed silence envelopes most. All but one little girl sitting with her father in the bed of the truck next to me.

“Daddy?” she says. “Do we shine?”

A thoughtful question deserving of a thoughtful response.

“I think so,” he answers.

“It’s good to shine,” she says.

“Most times. I guess it depends on where the shine comes from.”

My head turns from the stars to them.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“Well, you see that star over there?” He points to a bright speck above us. “That star gives its own shine. It doesn’t depend on anything else but itself to give it light. It’s on its own.”

“That’s a bright one,” she whispers.

“Yep. But one day, all that light will be gone. That star will run out of shine. But you see that over there?” he asks, pointing this time to a big, round ball.

“That’s the moon,” says the daughter. “I know all about the moon.”

“That so? Tell me.”

“Well, Mrs. Walker says the moon is dark and cold and dead. And it isn’t made of cheese, like Tommy Franklin said.”

“You have a smart teacher,” her father answers.

“I don’t want to be cold and dark and dead like the moon. I’d rather be a star.”

“But the moon shines, too. And it’s a better shine.”


“Because the shine isn’t the moon’s, it’s the sun’s. Light come from the sun, bounces off the moon, and lights the dark.”

“So moonlight is really sunlight?” she asks with a tone of both wonder and doubt. Mrs. Walker hasn’t gone over this yet.

“Yes. And because the moon is just reflecting the sun’s shine, it won’t get tired and start to fade.”

“So as long as the sun shines, the moon will, too?”

“You got it.”

The two sit in silence again, and my eyes move from them back to the sky.

A lot of us choose to stand in our own light. We want to be known for the things we do more than the people we are. “Look at me,” we say. “I’m special. Better.”

But we’re not. The more we try to shine our own light, the darker we’ll likely become. And sooner or later, we’ll fade. We don’t need to be stars in this life and be a light unto ourselves. It’s better to be a moon. Better to know that we can reflect the shine of someone greater and be a light to the world.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today


Peter P said...

OK.. did you make that up or do you just have some very smart, very deep hickabillies out there?

That was awesome. I want to always reflect God and never shine from my own 'brilliance'!

Shark Bait said...

I'm with Peter P on this one. How does one man hear so much wisdom around him? You must live in the smartest backwater in the world.

BTW "Like God sneezed a miracle" is one of the most profound and distrurbing images I have even been given of the creation of the heavens... Good one that!

Joanne Sher said...

I also LOVE the miracle sneeze. And the incredible message of reflecting His shine. Wow.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

I, too, was taken aback by "God sneezed a miracle." I don't think there's anything more on earth that can show His awesomeness than a star-filled sky.

I want to hear the things you hear, Billy - to hear the deep from the ordinary.

Denise said...

You are so special, bless you.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

There's a great song to go with this great post. Do you know "You are the Sun" by Sara Groves?

"You are the sun
shining down on everyone
Light of the world
giving light to everything I see
Beauty so brilliant
I can hardly take it in
And everywhere you are is warmth and light

And I am the moon
with no light of my own
Still you have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can't be a light
unless I turn my face to you"

Check it out on iTunes. I think you'll like hearing it up on that mountaintop some night.


Sarah Salter said...

LOL! I was totally hearing that Sara Groves song that Jennifer mentioned in my head while I was reading your post! If you haven't heard it, definitely look it up!

Lanette said...

I love how you put things into perspective. Once again wonderful post.

Tina said...

love this Billy

you've blessed me today thanks

In Him,

♥ Kathy said...

That was awesome katdish. I hear we ALMOST share a birthday :) mine is the day after yours...happy early birthday just in case I'm not here ♥

Jeanne Damoff said...

Like others have already said, you have a gift for seeing and hearing the profound in the ordinary. Thank you for always making me want to live my moments fully awake.

I love the moon analogy, in your words, in Sarah's song, in Grace's painting. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Amen to, "The more we try to shine our own light, the darker we’ll likely become." So true.

jasonS said...

Love these thoughts. I want to be a pure reflection.

Liz said...

Well, I am thinking while reading this, "do my kids ever have such thoughtful conversations or do I just not hear them with the same ear that you hear?" Then I read some of the comments, and laugh out loud at Peter B and Sharkbait...exactly what I was thinking, phrased just a little differently!
Great insight, Billy, as usual. And I love this too, "The more we try to shine our own light, the darker we’ll likely become". It couldn't be more true.
Hoping to reflect the true brighness of One greater than myself!

TuTu's Bliss said...

That you for sharing that. Hugs, Jen

FaithBarista Bonnie said...

This is a beautiful story, Billy. The moon, the stars, a little girl and her daddy. Wow, it can't get any better than that.

I actually thought of Jesus, reading the last points you made. Jesus Himself was Light of the World, and yet, He told us that He only said and did what the Father did and said. Jesus' love for the Father is truly amazing.

(btw, hey there, Katdish. I found your site recently through Billy's WILT blog.)

katdish said...

Thanks Jennifer! I added to you tube video at the bottom of the post.

Bradley J. Moore said...

Very nice. I too love the part about God sneezing out the universe. Or, I guess, you said "a miracle." Each reader will take what they want from it, right?