Do you know what a new moon looks like? Of course, I do, you’re probably thinking. Until two days ago, I would have thought exactly the same, but I wouldn’t really have been seeing a new moon in my head.
Because I have been in the middle of one book (or six) pretty much ever since I picked up my first kindergarten reader, many of the ideas floating around in my head are attached to letters but not pictures. For example, having read a towering stack of nineteenth-century British novels, I have the word rookery firmly planted in my head. However, I have no solid picture to go along with it. Instead, when I happen upon this word, maybe in Jane Eyre, I see the letters r-o-o-k-e-r-y with a vague image of big black birds sitting on rocks. Which is funny, really, because a rookery shares nothing with rocks but “r,” “o,” and “k.” Though, I had to look it up in wikipedia to be sure even of that.
So, new moon. Two days ago, I googled the phases of the moon. If you’re following a train of thought and sitting in front of a computer (or smartphone, I suppose) it’s amazing how far you can follow said train. My thought began with a complaint and a worry.
I have a two-year-old, and he is a terrible sleeper. Always has been. Which means that my husband and I haven’t slept well in more than two years (because those last few months of pregnancy are never great for sleep, either). Lately, this boy has taken to creeping into our bedroom several times each night and trying to sleep on the floor beside our bed. It’s a little sad and a little cute, but, mostly, it’s exhausting because the two-year-old can’t actually fall back to sleep on our floor, and we can’t fall back to sleep with the loud sucking sounds of his pacifier. Also, I’ve been worried that I’ll get up in the night, not realize he’s there, and step on him. Did I mention that our bedroom has been very, very dark lately? We have transom windows that let in a lot of moonlight, but recently there’s been no light at all and why has there been no light? . . . well, I started googling. The first page that popped up had a huge image of Wednesday night’s moon. A new moon.
This is what a new moon looks like: black, empty, nothing. Somewhere in my head I suppose I knew that. However, it’s the word new that throws me off. New suggests promise, possibility, beginnings. New things should be light, bright, and shimmery. Shouldn’t they? Yet a new moon looks like a black hole. The opposite of promising. The opposite of fresh. The opposite of, well, new.
Staring at that shadowy, black circle where a moon should be, I felt both surprised and encouraged. I’ve been waiting and watching and longing for new things. Months ago, I read these words and felt a promise for my own life: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43: 19). Some days, I did perceive it. Lately, not so much. I read David’s confession that God lifted him “out of the mud and mire” and “put a new song” in his mouth. I too want a “new song,” but I’ve seen so few signs of it. The landscape of my life looks a little dark. Mostly empty.
Seeing rightly what a new moon is, I recall what I do know: new things start out small. New things begin growing in darkness. In their earliest days, new things look a lot like nothing.
Today, I am choosing to believe that what looks like emptiness and nothingness to me is actually the most promising sign of something new. It is fertile ground for the new thing I choose to believe that God is doing.
I’m afraid I’m mixing metaphors here (from sky to earth), but the new moon reminds me of nothing more than a bed of fertile soil. It looks like absolutely nothing. It looks like darkness and emptiness. It isn’t.
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm 126: 5,6).