Thomas Merton described in Conjecture of a Guilty Bystander his epiphany on March 18, 1958: In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers … There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
We are all walking around shining like the sun. Just look at the sun today. Feel the warmth on the back of your neck. When you close your eyes to it, you can still see the brightness under your eyelids. It penetrates through the skin. There is a strength in that sunlight. It can even lift our mood. What is it like to walk around, shining like that? Yet Merton says we are. I am convinced very few people truly know they are walking stars.
As a matter of fact, we are quite literally, stardust. If the universe began with a big bang in space, we were originally made from the dust of stars. Thinking about the human race made in this cosmic way, it connects all of us. Merton felt that connection sitting on a bench in Louisville, KY. He felt a great love for the uniqueness in each person he saw. There was an instantaneous desire to share it. Once you catch that deep feeling of love, it cannot be contained.
It seems like most people are very hard on themselves. They want to do better. They see who they want to be and it is so far from who they are now. Our culture doesn’t help. More is the goal. Always strive beyond. We are never enough. It is impossible to shine when our heads are down.
This is not what God wants. God doesn’t want our perfection. God wants us to be the most of who we are. That is how we shine. What is more beautiful than a person being exactly who they are called to be? It is breath-taking. It is strong. It is brilliant. And it is fire-producing. It exudes the love God wants us to have for ourselves and for one another.
This Pentecost, dare to be the most you. God sent God’s Spirit to help. And you will shine like the sun.