The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name, — Amos 5:8
I remember going outside in the twilight and looking up at the stars when I was a child. There were so many of them! We didn’t have a lot of street lights, so they were quite visible. I remember seeing those little diamond-bright lights. It was magical, even as it still is in my memories.
I don’t remember when I learned to find the Big Dipper, but it was my go-to constellation for several years when sky-watching in the backyard. Then, I started studying constellations as a summer project. I found books on astronomy and tried to memorize the constellations. Now and then, I would look for the Big Dipper again, along with Cassiopea. But the big deal was Orion, the hunter, with his hourglass/rectangular shape and belt of three bright stars in a row. Orion was my guy, my go-to constellation, and the one that drew my eye when I looked up. Why? I don’t quite know, but I recognize him as something there to tell me that some things are eternal and can be relied on to be there.
Funny, Amos reminds me that God made Orion. It has become a symbol of God’s eternal presence in the sky, even when the street lights fade so many other stars and constellations. Orion may have had different names, but he has been around in the sky for who knows how many millennia. Ancient Egyptians knew him, as did Greeks and Romans. The word for Orion in Amos is kesil, meaning “the fool,“ and the Muslim name for the constellation in the Middle Ages was al-jabbar, “the giant.” Sumerians called it Uruana, or “light of heaven.” When I look at Orion, I am aware of the millions of eyes that have sought him out over the ages and felt connected to him throughout history.
I know God is eternal, created Orion, and always present. I was taught that since my earliest days of Sunday School. Still, on my daily pre-dawn walks, I found comfort in seeing that constellation in the sky above me. I was aware of God, but it was like God knew a little visual affirmation was welcome. Even now, if I go out in the evening for something, my eye always looks for Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mitaka, the three stars of the belt, and then for Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph, and Rigel. Then I thank God for the reminder.
Are there constellations, stars, natural things like rivers, mountains, trees, or lightning that remind you of God whenever you see them? Is it reassuring, or is it simply a reminder? There are times when I see kittens, and they remind me of God and God’s love. Silly, maybe, but reminders never seem to hurt. Puppies often do the same thing as my river back home and that pine tree on Monument Hill that I used to love to sit under. Here in the desert, Orion works that way for me.
Hopefully, one day I will be able to thank God in person for all the blessings I’ve been given – including kittens, my river, and Orion. There are other things, too, like good friends, happy memories, gifts, and grace, but for now, I’ll be genuinely grateful for my shortlist.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.