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Occasionally, when teaching high school kids, I’ll ask them if anyone knows the current phase of the moon. Sometimes I have to explain what a phase is, what waxing and waning is. And though we all glance up from time to time and notice a full or a half moon, not once has anyone known the current phase of the moon when asked at a random moment.
But, a hundred years ago, I’ll bet several would have known. And years before that, when we were an agrarian society, probably everyone would know exactly what tonight’s moon would look like. Long ago we lived closer to nature. We knew signs of impending weather, we took time to gaze at the stars, we knew the physical world around us more intimately. Coastal dwellers had to know the tides, navigate ships, and fish the ocean. And more people went outside and awaited the first star so they could wish on it.
Today we know electronics. We know marketing. We know viral videos, likes, and apps. We pay little attention to the blanket of stars overhead, unless we’re astronomy buffs.
I might add that tonight’s moon, on July 12, 2018, might surprise you by its seeming absence. Don’t spend long searching for it; you won’t find it. Tonight is the uncommon Super New Moon, when it is not illuminated by the sun at all. Though very close to the earth, the alignment is such that the moon is in complete darkness. If you want a fun vocabulary word, this is called Syzygy. (And there’ll be another conjunction on August 11th.)
But there’s an extremely easy formula for tracking the phases of the moon. It can be summarized in just two simple words: Look up. As we dash through our day, the setting of the sun, and the darkening of the sky, just take a moment and look up.
This easy task reminds me of the story of the brass serpent. When the Israelites were being bitten by poisonous snakes, the Lord told Moses to make a fiery serpent and put it on a pole, so that the people who’d been bitten by a snake could look up at the brass one, and live (Numbers 21:8–9). The lifting up of the serpent was a symbol of Christ being lifted up on the cross (John 3:14-15).
And it’s important to remember that it wasn’t the brass serpent that healed; it was faith in the words of Moses, and in Christ’s atoning sacrifice that would heal them. But you remember what happened: They lacked even the faith to look up. So easy, yet so many stumbled.
Lifting up their eyes to the serpent which was lifted up, representing Christ who was lifted up— There’s something to looking up.
Just as we miss the connection to God’s creations when we find ourselves too busy to notice them (“Little we see in Nature that is ours,” penned William Wordsworth), so can our harried lives take us from God himself. Soon we dash into our mornings and fall into our beds at night without taking time to pray, we rationalize not having time to study scriptures, we lose that connection to our Father in Heaven. And, like the moon, it’s not because he isn’t there; it’s because we haven’t looked up. Yet, how much more important is it for us to look up to God, than to the moon?
Next time you glance at the night sky, notice the moon. Think of your faith—is it waxing or waning? Is this orb which God placed above us perhaps a reminder that something utterly amazing is there for us, if we will only look up? And let’s hope we all find time to do it more often than once in a blue moon.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.