The Stars Beyond the Stars

During our Mother’s Day Skype, my 23 year old son, Nicolas, and I were talking about how I taught him to read when he was little. Our conversation reminded me of this piece that I wrote in November of 1995. When I told him about it, Nicolas encouraged me to post it.

My son is studying philosophy in seminary, so he hasn’t needed my help with reading for a long time now. But even 18 years after I wrote this, I know I still need help.

Because I am trying to read the stars.


The Stars Beyond the Stars                                       November 1995

I sit with my five year old in my lap. He is learning to read word by word, sentence by sentence, thought by thought. My heart swells with pride as he reads, as he understands. But sometimes he struggles. I fight the urge to read it for him. Instead I help him work through it, one word at a time. I know that if I read it for him, he will never learn to read it for himself.

His voice goes on, gaining confidence, but it has only become a background for my thoughts. I am learning to read as well—oh, not books or newspapers or nursery rhymes—but the deeper things. God is teaching me thought by thought, prayer by prayer, faith by faith. I am learning to read the stars.

Sometimes the brilliance of the stars themselves fills me with such awe that I am distracted from the story—the story of my life. And sometimes doubting clouds blacken the stars from my mind, and I wonder if the story was ever really written at all. But then, with the faith of a little child in her Daddy’s lap, I ask for help with the reading. He points to a star, and I struggle to gain its meaning. His presence and prompting encourage me to keep on. But He knows that if He reads it for me, I will never learn to read it for myself.

Sometimes I beg for Him to skip to the end of my story. I could understand so much now if I just knew how it would finish. But He tells me that reading is built on one thought at a time—one star at a time. The little words must be learned before the big ones. And as I understand each dim star, the next one grows brighter and stronger.

Every so often, when I am stuck on a star and feel I’ll never grasp it, I look back and remember the parts of my story that I have already learned. And then I gain strength as I see how much I have mastered earlier. And I believe again that, in my Daddy’s lap, I will find confidence to finish to the end.

I see the line of stars ahead, and their meaning is not clear. But I’m reading with eagerness because I have been told that this story is full of adventure, and hope, and faith. I know the story of my life stretches beyond what I can see—to the stars beyond the stars. And I am learning to read them, one star at a time.

“Mommy, I need your help.” My mind goes from stars in the sky to words in a picture book. My son sits in my lap, and I direct him as he struggles to gain their meanings—word by word, thought by thought, prayer by prayer, star by star.


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