Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Viewpoint is Everything . . .

How many GALAXIES can you count?
If any of you have known me, or followed my blog, any length of time, you know that I often turn to space and the stars as the place in which I put things back in proper perspective and remind myself how big and utterly amazing God is. Sometimes just stepping outside and staring up and reflecting for a few moments can bring a peace and restoration to my thoughts and anxieties that have gotten out of order and balance. But, that isn't the case for everyone, and I had a real lesson in how much viewpoint matters the other day . . .

Recently, with all the hype about the star Betelgeuse and whether it was dying next year or not, I spent a little time looking at more facts about it on the internet, and locating it in the night sky. What I learned was amazing (it is in the constellation Orion, by the way, and easy to see from our area at night). While one of the bigger stars, it is far from the biggest star, and yet, according to one video, if you were to take that tiny star and put its center where our sun is, its edges would go 90% of the way to Saturn's orbit! Picture that—this star, if it was put in the place of our sun, would have, inside of it, all the planets between the sun and Saturn—which means that Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and the largest of our planets, Jupiter, would all be inside it . . . along with all the space inbetween them! And it's not the largest star!

According to one video, if a plane flew around the largest known star at 900 km/h (which I believe is 560 mph) it would take it 1,100 years to get around it once! And these are just a couple of stars in our single Milky Way galaxy. To put that in perspective, according to Wikipedia, the Milky Way galaxy alone has 100–400 billion STARS in it, and is 100,000 light years across! That means that, if you traveled at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second—or 700 million miles per hour—a speed that would take you around the earth over seven times in a second) it would take you 100,000 years to cross our galaxy alone . . . and there are billions of galaxies in our universe!

Now, here's where viewpoint matters. The impact that these figures had on the people making the videos I watched, and many of the people commenting on them on YouTube, was to make them feel completely insignificant. One video ended with flashing the words, "You are not the center of the universe!" Another had a quote by Carl Sagan in which he said, "Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."

Some of the comments posted on these videos included (using their syntax/grammar):

Look? how small & insignificant we are. LOOK how small! We probably (possibly) the most insignificant thing in the galaxy. We are SMALL!!

i agree 100% that most people(including my wife) dont realize how lucky we are to be here.most people could care less about the universe and the planet we live on.what are the odds of there being a planet with the ingredients for life which orbits a sun in the? exact spot to form life with intelligence to figure out how lucky we really are??

"Luck . . . insignificant . . . forgotten corner . . . lost in a galaxy . . ." this is the perspective and viewpoint one gets by looking at these stars, galaxies, and facts without a knowledge of the love of God who made them, and the story of the cross. I, on the other hand, find myself drawn to completely opposite conclusions when I stare at the sky and ponder these same facts that these other people have. For example, the other night at our fire department drill, I stared up and saw Betelgeuse up there and I pictured the graphic I had seen of that single star swallowing our solar system out to almost Saturn, and I felt such a huge sense of how huge my God is, and I thought, "Why do I ever worry about anything when my God who loves me is so big!" Such peace and security flooded me after that.

I look up at these stars, and ponder the size of the universe, and then I realize that the God who made all of that crowned it with the creation of man, in His image. I read in the Word that before He ever formed the earth He had His plan in place to adopt me through His Son's death. I realize that, of this vast universe, He chose to come to our planet to die, to redeem us for His own, to live with us in eternity, and that, with this vast universe, He knows the number of hairs on my head and my every thought and He loves me and calls me His own. For me, the size of the stars and the universe doesn't make me feel insignificant—rather, I find that the more I realize that the God who made all of that knows me intimately and loves me so much that He died for me makes me realize that I am of great worth to the One whose estimate matters most.

I think the difference is that for those who don't know Him and His love they start from here and look farther and farther out and just feel smaller and more lost and more insignificant. I look at the same stars, but I start at the farthest point and I realize that the Father's eyes move from them closer and closer to us, here, who He has loved and made in His image and died for on a cross to have a relationship with of fellowship, love, adoption as His children, and eternal life with Him. When I see it that way I realize that we are, in fact, the center of the universe—because we are the center of His love and eye, and He is all that matters. Yes, the universe displays the glory of God . . . but we, as Christians, carry it . . . He dwells in us and calls us His own. Yes, viewpoint is everything . . .

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