I balked at my husband when he suggested we travel to see the “2017 North American Eclipse”. Every year, we go on a road trip to visit family and friends in Virginia and Georgia. It’s a long time in the car. My mother-in-law comes along with us, so there are five of us on the road for stints of up to 7 hours at a time on each leg of the journey. Rather than going in our roomier, albeit less reliable van, we went in my mother-in-law’s newly acquired 2015 Subaru Outback. Imagine two fiesty, red-haired children, who normally have an aisle’s width of space between them, suddenly practically atop one another for a road trip. Add to that a gifted backseat driver/gas gauge inquisitor (God love her). Jesus Take the Wheel was my theme song for this trip.
This year, the journey lasted 13 days, because instead of heading home after staying with family in the Atlanta area, we headed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a couple of days to bide our time until the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. We’d been to the Smokies before on the way home, so my husband insisted that we make it our hangout spot until the eclipse. He figured out that if we drove about 65 miles southwest of the park on August 21st, we would be in the path of not only the totality of the eclipse, but the longest exposure, at over two and a half minutes. There would be totality in the national park, but not lasting as long as the drive back away from home would provide.
I thought it was a cool idea, but didn’t feel the need to be in the astronomical epicenter of it. Frankly, I was ready to go home, as I usually am after a vacation. I enjoy being away and seeing people I love, but I am always eager to head home. Skipping the Smokies and the eclipse would have been fine by me. After all, it was supposed to be about 80 percent in New Jersey, so wasn’t that good enough?
I’d been poo-pooing the whole thing silently and aloud ever since my husband suggested the idea in the spring. After all, he is a science nerd, while I’m a writer and creative-type. However, I begrudgingly conceded that he was probably right since it wouldn’t happen exactly this way again until I was long-dead. I didn’t want to be remembered as the ancestor who deprived her children of the chance to observe the Astronomical Spectacle of the Century.
After a relatively event-free journey down winding country roads, we arrived at the Walmart in Madisonville, TN. When we pulled up at around 10:30 AM, we were greeted by a sea of cars, trucks, RV’s, umbrellas, canopies, and people. Despite this, we immediately found a parking place close to the exit near the road. Everyone was in high spirits and there were no problems in sight.
The full eclipse was to take place just after 2:30 PM, so we had time to kill. We accomplished this by browsing Walmart, going to the bathroom, walking to Sonic for milkshakes, and listening to my children bicker in the car. Just after 1:00, the first glimpse of the eclipse was available. The throng looked to the sky through their glasses, reminiscent of a 1950’s 3-D movie going crowd. It was pretty cool. There, I said it.
As the light began to change, I grew increasingly excited. I went live on Facebook (which you can view HERE) in order to share the moment with those who might not be able to see it. When the eclipse was total and the corona of the sun blazed around the perimeter of the moon, I was awestruck. A 360 degree twilight began and crickets burst into song. For two and a half minutes, the entire parking lot was spellbound by the spectacle. As the sun came back out, there were cheers as light blazed back down to where it had been dark mere moments before.
I’d originally scoffed at the whole idea of going out of our way to see this sight, but upon seeing the eclipse, realized my wrong. My family and I, along with hundreds of others at Walmart, had been privy to the work of God’s very hand. The Lord had prepared something amazing for me to experience, despite my grumbling doubt. In the midst of this amazing event, the Holy Spirit spoke truth to my heart about trusting in the plan and blessing that God has for my life. I recalled to mind the verse from 1 Corinthians 2:9 that states:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
From my limited view and mindset, I had been dragging my feet about going to see this eclipse, yet after seeing it, I can easily say it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. My perceived inconvenience and lack of understanding had robbed me of the eager anticipation I could have been enjoying. How telling this is of my human nature. God has wonderful things in store for me and for you, yet so often, we try to outwit God by avoidance or dishonor Him by complaining. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to be an eclipse chaser and will think back to it as a way of remembering to eagerly anticipate whatever God has ahead for me.
Frankly, I am already scheming about how I can get somewhere for the next total eclipse on April 8, 2024. I don’t want to miss something so spectacular.
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