I admit it — there are times that I can be all full of myself, thinking that I've got a pretty good handle on life. It is basic human nature to falsely believe that life is all about "me," my wants and wishes. God has a wonderful way of setting me straight when I take time to listen to Him.
There is a story I often recall that reminds me to ask God for a proper perspective. It is said that President Theodore Roosevelt was entertaining a friend at his home. William Beebe, the naturalist, used to visit fellow nature-lover Theodore Roosevelt. Often, after an evening of good conversation at Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill home, they would walk across the lawn in the darkness. They would look up at the stars, point out the constellations and carry on a conversation something like this: "There's the spiral galaxy of Andromeda! Did you know it was as large as our own Milky Way? It is over a hundred billion stars, and every one of them is larger than the sun, 750,000 light-years away. And there are a hundred million more galaxies like it out there!" The numbers would get larger, the facts and figures more spectacular. Eventually, they would shuffle on in silence, lost in wonder. Finally, Teddy Roosevelt would say, "Now I think we are small enough. Let's go to bed!"
Reading Psalm 8, I can just imagine a young shepherd, guarding his flock on a cold, clear night, peering into a night sky filled with a multitude of heavenly luminaries. Breathless and awestruck at the sight, he begins to exclaim, "O Lord ... our Lord" — pausing for a moment as he ponders the greatness of the Creator of the heavens. He continues, "How majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens!" After further contemplation, David lifts his hands toward those stars and inquires of his Maker: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
Author Kenneth Boa helps one to gain a proper perspective of God's greatness and our smallness when he writes, "Until the invention of the telescope in the early 17th century, only a few thousand stars were visible to the unaided eye ... Even until the second decade of the 20th century, it was thought that the Milky Way galaxy was synonymous with the universe ... but more recent developments in astronomy have revealed that our galaxy is a member of a local cluster of about 20 galaxies and that this local cluster is but one member of a massive supercluster of thousands of galaxies ... the number of galaxies is estimated at more than 100,000,000,000" (Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image, p. 29).
Perhaps you are like me when, after viewing some of the incredible images from the Hubble telescope which serve to increase our awareness to the vastness of the universe, all I can do is sit in wonder of God. The Bible reminds us that in Jesus Christ, the whole universe was created and is held together (Colossians 1:16-17). The prophet Isaiah says, "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" (Isaiah 40:26).
I hope these few words might convince you to take some time to meditate upon the greatness of the Lord and be in wonder of a Creator who is "mindful" of us, cares for us and loves us. And if you are reading this in the evening and have spent time in reflection of God's infinite greatness compared to our finiteness, you are probably small enough. May God grant you a good night's rest.
The Rev. Kevin Leach is pastor of West Newbury Congregational Church.