If you go outside tonight and look up at the stars, find one star in particular–any star–and focus in on only it. Then imagine–just for sake of estimation–that it’s 10,000 light years away. That would mean that it took the light from that star 10,000 years to travel to earth and reach your eyes.
Light travels at 186,282 miles per second. Not per hour. Per second. If you could travel at the speed of light you could go to the moon and back in just under three seconds. Or around the earth 8 times in one second.
It takes the light from our sun about 8 minutes to reach earth. As quickly as light travels, it would take a little over 5 hours for it to reach the edge of our solar system. Just our one solar system. So if it takes light 10,000 years to reach us from the one star we chose, we’re talking about an unfathomable, incomprehensible distance it has to cover.
Are you feeling a little small yet? Let’s keep going . . .
Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years across. Just the one galaxy that we reside in. It’s mind-numbingly, unthinkably huge. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around it. But it’s just one of many. Many many . . .
So how many galaxies are there total? Since the introduction of the Hubble space telescope in 1990, we have a much more accurate picture of that number, even though the sheer scope of the math slows down the counting process. Right now, best estimates say there are at least one hundred billion entire galaxies in the known universe. (It’s expected that the final estimate will be closer to two hundred billion). Not 100,000. Not millions. Billions . . . . Of whole galaxies like our own.
A billion seconds ago it was 1960. If you wanted to count to one billion it would take you about 100 years. And there are tens of billions of solar systems in our one galaxy alone. Each of the billions of galaxies out there contain tens of billions of stars of their own. When I piece all of that together and consider the sheer unfathomable scope of just our known universe (and we may eventually discover much more), it sets up one gigantic question:
How should I respond to the God that created and oversees all of that?
What do I do with that? How do I react?
Maybe God does have the right to ask me to live for Him instead of me. Maybe that’s the most meaningful thing I could be doing anyway. Maybe He knows things that I don’t, sees things I can’t, comprehends things I’m not able to, and can be trusted with the things I don’t yet understand, no matter how difficult they seem. Maybe my impossible problem is something He can solve. Maybe it’s actually an opportunity I’m perceiving as a problem. Maybe what I view as hopeless is just a next step to something better.
Maybe I could drop my self-righteous and arrogant attitude and realize that compared to Him, everyone on earth is in the same boat–equally and desperately in need of mercy and forgiveness and grace. Maybe my petty arguments and frustrations and need to control aren’t all that important. Maybe in the overall scheme of eternity, it will be ok. Most importantly, maybe I can see, with my heart and not just my mind, that I don’t have to earn His love–that I never could and never had to–but I can just receive it and rest in it. Though His creation is infinite and vast, he is not distant or uncaring, but right there. Right now.
I am an infinitesimal speck on a small planet in a nondescript solar system, in one of billions of solar systems among billions of entire galaxies in our known universe–all separated by unimaginable, inconceivably vast amounts of space. But I am loved. We all are.
We are loved on our best days, and on our worst days. We are loved beyond are capacity to understand or comprehend. We are loved when we sense and are keenly aware of God’s presence, and we are loved when we feel nothing at all. Not because we deserve it, and not because we earned it. Not because of the good works we have done, the things we accomplished, or the people we know.
But because God chose to love us. It’s His very nature. We are not loved because we are significant, we are significant because we are loved.