A Lesson in Starlight

By Nathan Perry

Photo by Pixabay
 
It was a beautiful summer morning in Oregon’s Jefferson State Park wilderness. My friends and I had just arrived at the gravel parking lot on the outskirts of the park. We scrambled out to stretch our legs after the three hour drive before preparing our gear in a flurry of activity.

This was my group’s annual summer backpacking trip and I could hardly contain my excitement. I love the outdoors and discovered the thrill of backpacking on my first trip several years earlier. I find the whole experience incredible; the amazing views, fresh mountain air, delicious alpine glacier water, building fires, and camping under the stars.

This trip provided a welcomed chance for me to escape from the stress and busyness of life for a few days. School had just let out for the summer. I was trying to find a summer job to cover expenses for the next year. My family had been dealing with some long term health issues after my siblings had been badly burned the summer before. These and many other things both large and small weighed on my mind. I determinedly pushed them aside as we left the gravel lot.

The first leg of the hike involved a five-mile uphill trek through a dense forest, which made for slow going with a 35-pound pack. By mid-afternoon we finally cleared the forest and were greeted by a sweeping vista of a pristine mountain valley dotted with little blue lakes. We stopped to rest and enjoy the view before beginning our descent into the valley.

Randy, our group leader, told me that I could go on ahead if I wanted, but that I needed to wait up at the first fork in the trail a few miles ahead. I agreed and took off down the trail at a trot. The trail wound its way down into the valley, providing fantastic views and a welcomed break from the uphill trekking into the park.

A sudden thrill came over me as I forged ahead, a pack on my back with everything I needed to survive, going on alone with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. I started humming the theme song from The Fellowship of the Ring as I scampered downhill, avoiding loose patches of rocks on the trail.
I was rejoined by my group at the fork Randy had told me about and we made our way down the trail together. Soon we came to our campsite. The long hike helped the group work up quite an appetite, so we set up our camp stoves and cooked dinner before making camp. I had elected not to bring a tent since the weather forecast called for clear skies for the duration of the trip. So while everyone was pitching tents, I laid a tarp down and spread my sleeping bag out in the open.

Everyone settled in and went to bed shortly after sunset. Sleep did not come immediately as my mind drifted back to my worries from earlier. So instead I listened to the sounds around me as I gazed up at the night sky.

The stars began to come out and I was awestruck by the shear magnificence of what I was witnessing. It looked like pictures I had seen from the Hubble Telescope but I was able to see the swirling galaxies and stars littering the sky above me with my own eyes and my mind struggled to comprehend the vastness staring back at me.

Then a dizzying feeling of insignificance hit me. My problems and struggles and hopes seemed laughable while looking up at that field of stars. I was nothing but a speck on a pale blue dot in a sea of nothingness that stretched on for eternity.

Then this peace came over me. Yes, I am small and insignificant. Yes, my life is just a blink of an eye to the universe. And yes, on a cosmic scale my problems don’t even register. But none of that mattered. What mattered is that I knew that despite all of that, my Creator cared about me. He cared about my family, my job hunt, and every other little thing that was bothering me. And that makes all the difference in the universe.

As that feeling of peace washed over me, I remembered the lyrics to the song “Starkindler,” by Michael Card:

            A billion bright and holy beams
            Of a light that’s traveled far
            Began the trip from His fingertips
            The wonder of the stars
            And like the star lit magi
            May they guide our souls to you
            As they shine the light of awesome love
            Into eyes that see anew

And with that, I drifted off to sleep.