On August 21st, a total eclipse of the sun will occur across the United States. This has been highly anticipated since the last time a total solar eclipse passed from coast to coast in the US was in 1918. Because of this, people are going absolutes bananas about it. They are traveling hundreds of miles to see it. In one city I know of in the path of the totality, Airbnb prices have risen over 1,667% their normal rates.
As the mania around the Great American Eclipse has increased, it’s led me to think about how focused and preoccupied people have come with something that blocks out the sun. This, in turn has led me to think about another kind of eclipse – a spiritual eclipse.
A spiritual eclipse is what occurs when we allow something in our lives to block out the Son. (Get it? Wordplay!)
Too often, we become preoccupied with things that take precedence over the Savior. I want to give a few examples of what these could be. Since I don’t know anything about your life, I’ll use some experiences from my own. Sometimes this overshadowing of the Lord is caused by things of little to no consequence. Things like pounding through six hours of a 30 Rock binge on Netflix but then “not having time” to go to the temple. Other things that can cause a spiritual eclipse are bigger. These seem justified due to the weight they carry in our lives, such as our jobs. Like not answering a text about helping with your calling because you were “busy at work” – even though you definitely had an in-depth GChat conversation about which 90s boy band had better hair while on a conference call.
As you can see, things that capture our attention are varied and highly prevalent in our everyday lives. The biggest difference between a solar eclipse and a spiritual eclipse is that spiritual eclipses are avoidable. We can’t determine the motion of the heavens and the paths of the bodies therein. But we can make decisions on what to focus our attention on during a given day.
The Power of Light
The sun is amazing. It is a star producing 3.86 septillion watts (that’s 24 zeros!) of energy every second, hurtling heat and waves and radioactivity into space. It essentially powers the entire solar system; it’s gravity holds the planets in their orbits. When a solar eclipse happens, it is because the moon comes between us and the sun. The moon. A big, dumb rock. An object so lame that NASA went there a few times, looked around and said “Eh…lets’s leave a flag, a plaque and a few rovers here and never come back.”
In the same way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an amazing thing. It gives light to the entire world and to each of us as individuals. Doctrine & Covenants 84:45 tells us that “whatsoever is truth is light” and in John 8:12, Christ Himself states that he is “the light of the world” and adds that those who follow him will “have the light of life.” The things that get in between us and this soul edifying light are, ultimately, of no importance from an eternal perspective.
I want to be clear: I am not suggesting we give up TV or awesome, screenshot-worthy GChat conversations. These are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But when we allow such trivialities to consume our lives and block out what is truly important – the Son – we rob ourselves of His sustaining Light.
Avoiding Our Eclipses
So, as the highways clog up and a couple people go blind due to fake eclipse glasses, I’d encourage each of us to take a moment and think of one or two spiritual things we have not prioritized in our lives. It could be temple attendance. Maybe it’s reading our scriptures daily. Or remembering to schedule the teacher for Elders Quorum before Saturday night. (That one’s about me again)
After identifying a few of these shortcomings – big or small – think of what it is that’s stopping you from doing them. What is causing your spiritual eclipse? I’ll bet that for most of us, we can improve by making small changes. Sending a quick email. Opening the Gospel Library app. Taking five minutes in between selecting “YES” when Netflix asks you if you’re still watching The Office and saying a prayer to your Heavenly Father. As we make these small edits, we will receive more light, and that light “groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”
I hope that each of us can make the changes necessary to allow the edifying light of the Son to more fully shine within our lives. As we do, we’ll find a future so bright – we’ll have to wear eclipse glasses.