Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Starry Perspective

Recently I added a new item to my office d├ęcor – a framed print from NASA’s Hubble telescope, known simply as XDF, short for eXtreme Deep Field.  Released in September of this year, this image is the product of ten years of photographs taken of the same tiny patch of sky.  The XDF represents an area one-fiftieth of the angular diameter of the full moon.  One astronomer compared it to looking at the sky through an eight-foot straw. It represents the most penetrating glimpse into space ever captured for human consumption.

In this tiny patch of sky may be seen about 5,500 galaxies, each of which consists of billions of stars.   The faintest galaxies captured in this photograph are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

Often before retiring to bed, President Teddy Roosevelt used to step outside the White House with a friend and look up into the night sky, searching for a tiny patch of light near the constellation Pegasus.  “That is the Spiral galaxy in Andromeda,” he would say.  “It is as large as our Milky Way.  It is one of a hundred million galaxies.  It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our own sun.”  After a moment of silent awe, he would then say, “Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.”  Thanks to advances in technology, we can now see that the universe is far bigger than Roosevelt ever imagined.

On this minuscule planet we call home, we can very easily loose perspective.  Following the ebb and flow of politics, fearing the machinations of despotic leaders, and failing to remember that the same God who spoke the universe into existence also controls the hearts of kings causes us to at times be overwhelmed. 

Considered in light of the universe, Isaiah 40:22 compares us earthlings to the relative significance of grasshoppers.  When you glimpse the vastness of that universe, it seems that Isaiah’s words are a grand overstatement!

So be encouraged and reassured.  Despite the apparent limitlessness of the universe, God is never distracted or inundated with the details of executing His providence.  Considering the work of His creation should drive us to be prostrate before Him in humility and reverential fear.  Gazing at the contents of a tiny fraction of the sky should bring needed balance and perspective to the daily hassles we encounter on planet earth.