When I was little, I was afraid of the stars.
Hearing the term “falling stars,” I logically concluded that stars could fall out of the sky. After learning the fate of the dinosaurs, the possibility of a falling star joining us on earth became quite an active threat in my mind. To stare up at the stars was to stare at my eventual demise.
Having since learned the correct term for a meteor, as well as discovering that NASA has an asteroid defense system, I can gaze at the stars in appreciation rather than fear. On nights that are warm and clear, I will find myself getting wrapped up in the grandeur and majesty of it all. If I lose myself in the moment, however, the enormity will overwhelm me and I will feel that old fear rising in me as I begin to question the things that scare me now. Life. Death. Infinity. Finity.
Although I welcomed learning about asteroids, other enlightenments have not always been so positive. Education is a slow process which first involves creating a foundation of knowledge, and then a systematic dismantling of it as we learn the initial version of events was not quite accurate. To grow up is to watch the world slowly crumble around you.
I have never enjoyed watching the stars fall.
It happens gradually, subtly at first. You relearn the stories of our country, hearing the darker sides for the first time. Simple Sunday School truths do not seem to apply to the complicated world you live in. A beloved relative has a history you could have done without knowing about. A couple you know gets divorced. A child dies. You begin to realize the extent of the complexities, the pain, and the hunger of this world. We can ignore it, retreating back into preferred ignorance, or simply avoid staring at it for too long, lest we notice that one by one, the stars are falling down.
I have always hated the discomfort of this process, even if I have welcomed the knowledge itself. With matters of faith, I struggled the most. Whenever someone who I had learned from later realized they were walking down a path they did not fully believe in, I felt shaken. I questioned the journey I was on, wondering if I only believed out of naïveté, or perhaps simple stubbornness.
When I was thirteen, I watched one of the most spectacular meteor showers the world would ever see. The stars flew across the sky, stretching from end to end before burning out their glory. The universe was forever changed, but at its core, it was all it had ever professed to be – grand.
I no longer fear the falling stars.
I have realized I believe in truth and in love, and most others do as well. There will be many times when we are wrong, sometimes devastatingly so, about the manifestations of these.
These stars must fall away.
I doubt I will ever enjoy the process, but I have learned that an ever changing, ever churning world is to be savored. My place within it has not changed, though the stars may swirl about. I remain in love.