Good morning, God.
I had a glimpse. A moment. A wake-up call.
I realised something.
The other night I watched a film by Louie Giglio and it was called ‘Indescribable‘. It was amazing and it was about you; about the work of your hands. About the planets, the solar system, outer spiral arms and galaxies and universes and things. It was very scientific and the numbers and distances and so on were mind-blowing – at least they were for me – as you know I am in possession of a mind that is very easily blown when it comes to numbers of more than a few digits.
The film featured photographs from the Hubble space telescope and the point was this:
I am Very Small.
You, however, are Very Big.
I am tiny. As Louie Giglio’s talk progressed, I got smaller and smaller as I had a little glimpse into the immensity of the place I live. How much is ‘out there’. I am very, very small. Insignificant.
And then there’s you. Vast. Enormous. Vocabulary doesn’t touch it; it can’t begin to cover the hugeness of you. You are this big (holding arms wide, wide open) and I am this small (holding thumb and forefinger very close together). There. That’s about it, only my arms would need to be much, much longer, and my ability to hold my fingers apart without touching would need to be far better.
It turns out that space, or what we know if it, is rather large. This is what I have been told:
Light travels very fast. It travels at three hundred thousand kilometres per second. It would take one and a quarter seconds for light to get from earth to the moon. Eight and a half minutes for light to travel from the sun to earth. This is because the sun is much further away than the moon. It’s about one hundred and fifty million kilometres away, in fact.
If I could travel at the speed of light (apart from being able to break up fights between the children before blows actually landed, which would be quite useful), I could travel from one side of our galaxy, the Milky Way, to the other side but it would take one hundred and fifty thousand years. That’s one hundred and fifty thousand years travelling as fast as light can travel, and that’s fast enough to get from here to the moon in one and a quarter seconds.
So a hundred and fifty thousand years, travelling at an inconceivable speed, to get from one side of this galaxy to the other. And, it turns out, we think that there are other galaxies out there as well as the Milky Way. Round about one hundred billion other galaxies, as far as we know. And in each one the scientists think there might be around one hundred million stars. So if there are a hundred million stars in our galaxy, and there are perhaps a hundred billion other galaxies, then how many stars are there? A hundred million times a hundred billion…I have no idea how many noughts that is.
But not immeasurable by you. You made it. You arranged it. And you know each star by name.
There are more stars being made every second. You put them in their places. Just where you want them.
A hundred billion. I don’t follow the numbers too closely as my brain can’t handle them. I can get a grip on numbers of up to about 72,000 – I pick that number as that’s the number of people who came to the Live Aid Concert at Wembley in 1985 and I gazed at the pictures of the crowds in awe for quite some time. Wembley Stadium, full to bursting, held 72,000 people. I know what that number looks like. If someone tells me, ‘Imagine four Wembleys, or six, or ten…‘ I can keep up for a while in my imagination before it throws in the towel.
That’s how soon I’m out of my depth when I’m thinking about big numbers and you. Because you hold all this in your hand.
‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.’
So, there are millions of billions of stars, and galaxies beyond the far horizons of our dreams (to quote YFriday*), and yet you know each star by name.
The dictionary has things to say on the subject of big. I’m still half attempting to get my head round it, aren’t I?
VAST (adj) [v’ast/v’ahst]
def: very large, wide in range.synonyms: all-inclusive, astronomical, boundless, colossal, endless, enormous, eternal, great, huge, limitless, immeasurable, immense, infinite, massive, tremendous, unlimited.
Where distance and time meet. You are infinite, unlimited, eternal, immeasurable.
And yet you love me.
Maybe it doesn’t matter at all that I can’t grasp it. It’s irrelevant. Your majesty doesn’t depend on my understanding. And so what if a glimpse of such wonder brings me to my knees? That’s where I’m supposed to be. If I was supposed to understand, I would. You’d have made me that way. I am a creature and you are the created. Me asking ‘Where are you?‘ is like a goldfish saying ‘Where is the water?
Sometimes you open the great doors to heaven a little bit and a shaft of light comes out and I get a glimpse that something wondrous is within. In half an hour of wonder this DVD that I saw showed me how small I am in a vast and breathtakingly beautiful universe, and it showed me how amazing it is that you should care about the minutiae of my life. How amazing it is that you listen to me. How amazing it is that you sent your Son to come and live among us and most astounding of all that he died so that I could live.
‘What is man, that you are mindful of him? The son of man, that you care for him?‘
|2. The Pleiades|
We think that we are big and clever and we talk about power in terms of rulers and prime ministers and presidents and leaders of industry. Financiers. We think of power as money, influence, decision-making. Leadership. Statesmanship. How mistaken we are. How small and insignificant we are. How weak and powerless.
You said to Job:
‘Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the belt of Orion?’
Can we rearrange the stars? Can we change anything at all, really? Can we bluster and shout, or plead or wail and make anything different? Not really. All we can do is build bigger and bigger telescopes and peer through them at your glory and you very graciously show us a new thing now and again. You wait there, smiling, for our new technology and then reveal something breathtaking, secure in the knowledge that we can see only the very pointiest tip of the iceberg.
‘If inclined to boast of our abilities, the grandeur of nature may soon show us how puny we are. We cannot move the least of all the twinkling stars, or quench so much as one of the beams of the morning. We speak of power, but the heavens laugh us to scorn.’
C H Spurgeon, Morning and Evening
You can do all things. You are bigger than our minds can imagine, and yet, while you want me to appreciate how small I am in the immensity of space and time, you don’t show me my smallness to crush me. Instead, you lean down to tell me that you love me. That you know me inside and out and have done since before I was born. Before I was born, you knew me and you knew all that I would think and do. All my hopes and dreams and fears. You care.
I think you want me to glimpse your power and your size so that I’ll know that there is nothing so big that you are not bigger. There’s nothing that I can’t trust you with.
It doesn’t matter that I can’t tell how big you are. It doesn’t matter that I can’t follow the maths, or understand the physics. It doesn’t matter that our telescopes are inadequate.
You are Big Enough.
Bigger than I can imagine. Bigger than I can dream. Able to do more than I can conceive, and with a perspective on things that is perfect. Nothing is out of sight or unknown or in the shadows. You created light. You are the Father of Light (James 1:17). Nothing is hidden from you. I need fear nothing with you at my side because you are everything.
You are the beginning and the end.
Always out of reach even for someone who likes words. I can try, but I’ll never reduce you to words on a page.
And I can say that I know you. It amazes me. You love me, and so tiny as I am in the eternal scheme of things, I am important. I have significance because you think that I am worth caring about. You are my Father.
|Whirlpool Galaxy (M51A/B or NGC 5194/5). Credit:NASA/ESA|
* YFriday: Great and Glorious CD 2009, Absolute UK