The Moon was a dull, dirty lump of rock, floating listlessly through the cold dark expanse of space. She longed for beauty, and for purpose, but as time marched on she often feared that she would never be anything more than a useless bit of stone.
The Moon saw the Stars in the sky, countless billions of them, sparkling and twinkling with such beauty it could break her heart. She longed to be like them, shining and splendid in all their natural loveliness. She tried to shine bright like the Stars, but she didn’t know how.
Days went by, and weeks and months and years. Still the Moon remained just as she was, a darkened, dirty mass with no one to talk to and nothing to do.
One day, rather unexpectedly, another dark and dirty mass came whizzing her direction. It was much smaller than she, and it seemed to know exactly where it was headed.
“Hello!” she cried. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Earth!” cried the thing.
“What’s Earth? And why?” asked the Moon.
“It’s a planet!” answered the thing, whizzing past the Moon now. “And it’s my job to crash into it! I’m a Meteoroid, and I make craters!” And with that, the thing was gone.
The Moon pondered this. How wonderful it must be, she thought, to know what one’s purpose is. She couldn’t stop thinking about the Meteoroid, and then she was struck with an exciting idea.
Maybe I’m supposed to make craters too! Maybe I’m a Meteoroid! And with all her might, she tried to fly through the night sky as she’d seen the Meteoroid do. But just as she’d failed to make herself shine like the Stars, so also she could not fly like a Meteoroid. She remained exactly where she was, bobbing dully in the same dark spot she had always occupied.
Some time later, another rock-ish thing came whizzing her direction. The Moon was terribly excited to see it, and she cried out to it immediately.
“Hello there! Are you going to crash into Earth?”
“What? No!” it answered. “I’m an Asteroid! My job is to fly through space, orbiting the Sun!”
The Sun. The Moon was frightened of the Sun, because it was so bright and hot and terrible. Most of the time she kept her back to it, and tried to forget it was even there. And yet here was this happy Asteroid, whose whole existence centered around the Sun.
“Aren’t you afraid?” asked the Moon.
“Yes!” answered the Asteroid. It was now directly in line with the Moon, and it was moving quickly. “The Sun could burn me up! But its heat warms me, and its light cheers me, and its gravity keeps me in orbit. I trust the Sun!”
The Asteroid was getting farther away from the Moon now.
“Wait!” cried the Moon. “How do you do it?”
“I don’t know!” answered the Asteroid, its voice growing fainter. “I just keep looking at the Sun!”
Looking at the Sun? thought the Moon. She didn’t like this answer at all. She had hardly ever looked at the Sun. In fact, she’d become so used to not looking at the Sun, she wasn’t even sure she could do it. She feared that if she looked at the Sun now, after all this time, its brightness and heat would destroy her.
For many long days she considered the Asteroid’s answer. I look at the Sun. I look at the Sun. It kept playing in her head, and she couldn’t escape it. She continued to keep her back to the Sun, but she became more and more aware of its warmth and presence, and it made her uneasy. The more she thought about her desire for beauty and purpose, the more she realized that maybe the Sun had something to do with it.
Finally, she could stand it no longer. The Moon slowly and carefully turned towards the Sun, keeping her gaze averted as she did. She felt the intensity of its heat as she turned, and was surprised to feel strengthened by this rather than hurt by it. She waited quietly for a few moments, wondering if there was something she ought to do.
Then, through the dark expanse, a powerful voice addressed her. “Moon,” the voice said. “I have been waiting for you.” The voice was strong and clear, the kind of voice that could terrify an enemy or comfort a child.
“Me, Sun? You’ve been waiting for me?”
“I have,” the voice said.
“But why?” asked the Moon, and she dared a look in its direction. Rather than burning her up, as she had feared, the sight of the Sun filled her with awe. She caught her breath, and felt that she might cry. All those far-off Stars she had admired for so long, they were as nothing compared to the splendor of the Sun, whose presence and beauty were so near.
“I’ve been so eager for you to know me,” said the Sun, “and for you to learn your purpose. You do have one, just as the Meteoroid and the Asteroid do, but you cannot do it without me.”
The Moon was too astonished to speak.
“You’ve heard of the Earth, have you not?” asked the Sun.
“I have,” she replied.
“The Earth has my light all day long, and benefits greatly from it, but it only has the light of the Stars at night, and they are so far away. You are much closer to the Earth than they are, and capable of providing it with much greater light.”
“I? But I have no light!” exclaimed the Moon.
“No? No, indeed you do not. However,” and here the Sun paused for a moment, a hint of laughter in its voice, “have you looked at yourself since you turned towards me, dear Moon?”
The Moon looked down at herself. To her very great amazement, bright light was burning off of her, radiating out from every inch of her that faced the Sun. “What is this?” she breathed, full of wonder.
“You long for the light of the stars, but you could never become light simply by trying, because that’s not how you were made. You were not made to create your own light, but to reflect mine. This is a truth that you must understand. As long as you look at me, you’ll always have my light.”
The Moon found all of this nearly too wonderful to be true. So deep was her joy that words failed her, but her gratitude was clearly written in the beauty of her softly shining face.
The Moon never looked away from the Sun after that, and for all her days she glowed with the reflection of its glory. Most nights, the Earth had some or all of her gentle, silvery light, and those who looked up into the night sky saw her and were glad. On some nights, the Earth had none of her light at all. That was the way of it. But the Moon herself was never again without the warmth and radiance of the Sun.
Several years later, the very same Asteroid she’d met so long ago came whizzing by her again.
“Hello, Moon!” it said. “You’re so very beautiful!”
“Thank you, Asteroid!” the Moon joyfully cried. “I took your advice, and I looked towards the Sun. He’s the one who gave me this beautiful light!”
“Ah, yes,” said the Asteroid, already flying off into the distance. “He does things like that. Isn’t it wonderful?” And with that, the Asteroid was gone, following its appointed path through the cosmos. The Moon watched it go, her face lovely and her heart rejoicing in the purpose and beauty they had each found in the light of the Sun.
Illustrations by Emily Helquist