Fear and Sky

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Do you remember being enraptured by the wonder of the sky long ago?

I don’t remember the details, but I remember the moments. Parting the shoes and clothes occupying my closet to get to its deepest corners, I pulled out that shiny red telescope like it was Excalibur. It was my instrument for awe. I scurried down the hallway and made my way outside. I pointed it toward the stars. I didn’t know their names. There was no rhyme or reason to my aim. And yet, at every turn, the telescope brought into focus what I was looking for all along.

Job said it well. “Now my eye sees you.”

Gazing at the stars is for kids, or for nerds (we tend to believe). Our greatest awe with the galaxies above is when we’re sitting in comfy chairs watching the Skywalkers on digital screens. “Stars” are Kardashians, not incandescent bodies of gas. These days, we do not have time for such celestial triviality. “Leave it behind with our Astronomy course in college,” we chide. We have Netflix to watch. Take a moment to answer a question, out loud. When is the last time you actually made a point to go outside and look up at the heavens above you? I do not mean to demean you–I probably have a similar answer. We blame it on living in the city. We’re not “night owls” any longer. It’s all hogwash, but we let it work.

I think one reason we often don’t make time for this simple, free, endless entertainment of observing the night sky, is that we don’t like to feel small. (Skeptic!) Carl Sagan put it well in talking about Earth: “Every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” We are unfathomably insignificant, and the sky reminds us. All of our checklists that seem to be bogging us down daily are exponentially outnumbered by the stars above. For every blade of grass you have stepped on today, there are (not making this up) at least ten galaxies out there. All of our hubris and authority vaporizes the moment we take a moment to fix our eyes onto the greatness of the cosmos.

But we hide our telescope. It puts us under the microscope.

Is it a good thing to feel small? I believe so. Christians talk about humility a lot, but when it comes to living that out, one finds it difficult when he forgets that the universe is not inside of him, but out there, swallowing “his” pale blue dot up. Christian humility is found in the ability to be worshipfully awestruck at the bigness of God, who would make such a vast cosmos and yet show radical compassion to the most minuscule of its occupiers. It is not to view the Little Dipper as childish, but as massively powerful, and crafted by an even bigger Creator.

Let us grab our telescopes again and be enamored by His tapestry of colors and lights. If for nothing else, let us take pause for just a moment to raise our eyes to the heavens and see the master strokes of the Artist. Let us feel small, and rejoice in it. Beautiful. It is beautiful not only because we witness such a work, but because we get to participate in it. No concert, no theatre, no museum, no statue, no festival, no gallery can give us a showcase and an experience as powerful and awe-inspiring as watching the likes of Perseus and Cassiopeia perform their nightly dance. The Creator God puts on the show to reveal His glory. It sits there, right before us, night after night. It was good on the fourth day, and it is good today.

There is a reason the stars take your breath away. Smallness before majesty, and the Majestic One, is the greatest fear you can find.

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