I was in middle school, say 1993, the first time I heard the song. It had already been blasting over FM frequencies and in roller skate rinks for a decade, but somehow I had missed it. I heard the song in the auditorium of Mt. Juliet Jr. High during the S.T.A.R.S. presentation. Acronyms were used A LOT back in those days with teenagers. It made anything cool. S.T.A.R.S was an acronym for Students Taking a Right Stand. They spoke out against the use of alcohol, drugs, crude language, and other bad stuff.
Some of my peers walked out onto the darkened stage wearing black t-shirts with white lettering emblazoned on the front. Each shirt had a different bad thing written on it. Heroin. Cocaine. LSD. I don’t know how many of my classmates in small town Mt. Juliet were snorting coke, but the message was clear. These things were bad, and we should turn from them. That’s how I heard the song. “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” This moving rock ballad repeats the phrase, “Turn Around.” And when Bonnie Tyler would sing the words “Turn Around,” the student wearing the Heroin t-shirt would turn around to show another word on the back of their shirt, like Hope or Promise or Love.
I learned today that Bonnie Tyler will be singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on a cruise ship during the Total Solar Eclipse next Monday. To which I say, “Epic.” But, it got me thinking about the song in middle school, the darkness in our country right now, and Abraham.
First, I have been crushed this week. The events in Charlottesville grieved me. I reminded our staff on Sunday to keep our heads high because we are a part of pushing back the darkness, but I must admit I have had trouble keeping my head up. If you come to Providence Church, you know that for some time as a predominantly white church we have been calling out the evil of racism and seeking to build partnerships in our community to work towards racial reconciliation. We don’t always even know what that means or what it looks like, but we decided to try even if that meant we made some blunders. So, it did not surprise our congregation when we called out the sin and evil of the White Supremacist protests in Charlottesville. We had called out the evil of racism the Sunday before.
We have also been studying Abraham. Well, really Abram. We have spent more time looking at Abram before he was Abraham. Abram lived so long in the gap between what God had promised and what he could currently see. What I mean is he had been told that there would be beautiful promises fulfilled in his life, but he couldn’t see it.
One such instance of this is when Abram tells God that the promise of being a father of many nations doesn’t seem like it will happen. He is quite old and doesn’t have kid one. God takes Abram outside of his tent and asks him to count the stars in the sky, if indeed he can. That’s how many descendants Abram will have. Imagine the stretch of faith needed to count stars and believe that you will have that many descendants when you are 80 years old and don’t have one descendant yet!
And then, when you read the Scripture more closely, you realize that God took Abram outside to count stars in the middle of the day. That’s right. Upon closer inspection of the story it is clear that God and Abram’s star gazing party took place in the afternoon. That’s a different kind of faith altogether. That’s crazy, extravagant, bold faith in the face of circumstances that tell you the opposite of the promise must be true.
And Abram believed.
My brother, who works as a physical scientist for the National Parks service, was in town last week visiting from Utah. He told me how he was going to drive a far distance from his home to the Tetons to witness the full totality of the Solar Eclipse. Because he knows a lot more about the heavens than I do, I asked him questions about this marvel that will be coming right through my hometown in a few days. Andy told me several amazing things that we could expect, and then he said, “It is quite common that during a total Solar Eclipse, the sky goes completely dark and the stars come out in the middle of the day.”
“Say that again,” I said.
He repeated, that during a solar eclipse the stars can come out in the middle of the day. My brother studies the heavens in one way, I study the heavens in another. I shared with him about Abram and this strange story where it seems God asks him to count stars during the day. Could it have been a solar eclipse? Andy explained that there are computer generated forecasts both into the future and into the past of when and where solar eclipses happen. You know I googled it.
There was a total solar eclipse, according to one source, on May 9, 1533 B.C. in Canaan. The precise time when a foreigner named Abram had pitched his tent in that exact place. I’m not saying that the story in Genesis 15 happened on that day. I’m just saying I was reminded we have a God who can cause stars to come out in the middle of the day. I believe that.
Today, those of us who belong to the family of Abraham should lift our gaze upwards. We are indeed in a time that could be described as a gap between what God has promised and what we can see. But, we are indeed the people who believe God can still turn people around. It can be drastic as seeing Heroin one moment and seeing Hope the next. It can be as dramatic as going from LSD to Love in the blink of an eye.
I believe that all people are created in the image of God. I believe that White Supremacy is from the pit of hell. I believe that we are in an in between time and that what we see right now is the not the full fulfillment of the promise. I believe we must stand and fight for justice. I believe that as a white southern man I have contributed to the brokenness that we experience. But, I also believe in the total eclipse of the heart.
Why? I believe God can make stars come out in the middle of the day.
Photo Credit: Miloslav Druckmuller