It was a beautiful sky, as I looked backward from the window of the plane. I was flying from the West coast heading east. The plane left the ground of the West coast and climbed into a sky bathed in bright sunshine. There was not a cloud to be seen. I knew, however, that the plane would be chasing the impending darkness of the East coast. That gives a person the surreal sense of the day rushing by.
Normally, when we watch the coming of dusk, it is slow and subtle. If we pay attention, we can sense the late afternoon sun begin to give way to softer light. And then the colors of dusk come and, finally, the darkness of night itself descends. As a farm boy, I watched that transformation a thousand times.
But the recent plane ride was different. And it was at a vastly different speed. I watched how quickly the brilliance of the day’s sunlight was being subdued. It was as if I could sense night speeding our way. I think that is what prompted me to turn around and look back to the west.
That Western sky was in transition. It was like seeing daylight meet darkness. At that meeting spot the sky looked rusty. Perhaps I have seen that before, but never paid enough attention. But this time, it was riveting. It left me to ponder. And for me, pondering is a spiritual exercise.
The first thing I was pondering was the color of rust. Again, farm boys know enough about rust! There are usually a large number of metal things around the farm and many of them begin to rust after too much exposure to rain and moisture. In this kind of example, rust is not a good thing. Ultimately, it is destructive.
But as I pondered further, I realized the color of rusty sky was different. In this case the rusty color was a natural occurrence of the mixture of certain colors. No doubt, the sun was at such an angle the light emitted, when mixed with the onrushing darkness made the color look rusty. It was different than grey, but like grey in the sense that it was a subdued color. I laughed out loud when I figured out the rusty sky was what happens when the brilliance of the youthful day gets closer to the end.
Then it hit me. I had just discovered a metaphor for life. It makes sense to me to think about death as night. Death does squelch the vibrancy of life. When it is good and healthy, life is like the morning of a sunshiny day. I laughed out loud again. I am way past noon in my life! I guess night is coming for all of us. In keeping with the metaphor, we are all flying---or living---eastward. Sooner or later, we all fly into the night. That’s not bad. That’s natural.
I am probably nearer to dusk than many who read this. I am ok with that. It does not feel morbid to ponder and write it. I suppose the ultimate joke is we can only live one day at a time any way! So I am a near-dusk guy. Hallelujah!
With that awareness comes a question for myself. What kind of rusty-sky kind of person can I be…or become? Let’s look back at the rusty sky for some help. When I looked back at that rusty sky, I noticed how beautiful it was. Perhaps at the rusty-sky level of life, I am free to be---and to become---beautiful in profound and deeper ways. As a teenager, beauty can be a real trap. Often it means obsessing about things that, fortunately, in the long run don’t matter as much. I know folks talk about inner beauty, but I think there is something about that.
As a rusty-sky guy, I want to become as beautiful as I can be. I want to radiate beauty in the way God intended for me and for everyone. How about living life such that I am beautifying everyone and everything around me? What a mission!
I turned around to catch another glimpse of that rusty sky. It was awesome. There was my second cue as a rusty-sky guy. I can also be or become awesome. Again, at this stage of life I am free to think about being awesome in a deeper and richer way. Awesome is not the sole privilege of the Hollywood star or the professional sports guy.
What about being spiritually awesome? Surely, Mother Teresa was this kind of awesome person. It is not nighttime for me yet. I have plenty of time to become awesome. Often awesome appears in simple ways. It can be a smile or a twinkling eye. It can be a hand---literally or figuratively.
I appreciate the lessons learned as I flew into the night. Luckily, living into my own night does not happen at 600mph! I have time as a rusty-sky guy to become beautiful and awesome. I think that is just what God would want. And when night comes, I have a hunch God is going to be pleased and invite me to the party.
After all, who would not want a beautiful and awesome guy!