Standing in line with a bunch of strangers in the middle of the night… it sounds like something only fanatical shoppers do on Black Friday. But deal-hunting was not on anyone’s agenda here. This crowd had gathered explore the unknown. A chance to take a peek into the depths of outer space.
The moonless night was cold and dark. So dark that we couldn’t even see the person standing next to us. We stepped on toes and bumbled into each other… but the absence of all light only magnified the brilliance of the sky above.
“Tonight we’ll be viewing the Ring Nebula,” came an official sounding voice from somewhere in the darkness. “It’s one of the most viewed objects in the night sky, and one of the closest nebulae to Earth.”
Wow, that sounds great, I thought. Umm… what exactly is a nebula again?
The line moved slowly into a darkened observatory, its telltale dome silhouetted against the celestial glow. Inside, the head astronomer presented a stream of awe-inspiring facts as we waited for our turn at the giant telescope. By the time I reached the eyepiece, I fully anticipated “Hubble-esque” imagery of space grandeur, with brilliant plumes of cosmic gases filling the lens.
I peered into the scope and saw… nothing. I looked again and spotted only a tiny undefined splotch against a star-dotted black expanse. Feeling underwhelmed, I asked if I was looking at the right thing. Is that just a smudge on the lens? Maybe the telescope shifted?
“Actually, that’s a very clear image from earth,” came the response from the darkness. “Keep in mind, what you’re looking at is 2,300 light years away from us. And let me add, that ‘smudge’ is approximately 6 trillion miles in diameter.”
Discussions on the vastness of space always include a few unfathomable numbers to grapple with. I mean, we’re talking about a “close neighbor” that’s 13,800,000,000,000,000 miles away!
Sometimes the only way to mentally approach the size of the universe is to concede that our human minds can’t really handle the infinite. It’s difficult to grasp that outer space may extend out in every direction with no end. And it may be even more perplexing to consider what would come after the “end” of space… if there is an ending point somewhere out there.
We may wonder why God even created such an expanse. Why is there so much out there that we can never possibly see or understand? Perhaps one reason is to provide us with a tangible glimpse of the infinite and eternal. It’s something to help us wrap our minds around the concept of an immeasurably powerful Creator… something to help us grasp thoughts of an everlasting God and His unending love for us… something we can compare to the deep intricacies of God’s eternal plan that we’ll never fully see or comprehend.
If everything we knew in this world was clear-cut and finite, we might never be able to truly appreciate the infinite God of wonders.
Ephesians 3:19-21 – May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully… All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! [emphasis added]
– Ron Reid
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