July 13, 2009

"There are People up There!"

Last Monday at 10:41pm, the International Space Station (perhaps some of you saw it) hurtled like a comet with its tail cut off, across the black backdrop of the Cincinnati sky. It’s a rare occasion when Earth's largest and most impressive man-made satellite’s orbit passes exactly over our city and is visible to the naked eye … so Tobey and I stayed up to watch it (actually, I woke her up at about 10:35 to go outside and see a ‘surprise’!). And here is what struck me as we stood in our yard, gazing at what looked like a speeding fireball criss-crossing the night:

‘That thing is over 200 miles away from the earth, moving that fast … and there are people up there! People on a satellite nearly as far away as Cleveland … and we can actually see it! It must be absolutely huge to be visible at that distance.’

Ever since that time, I have been mulling over what lessons there might be to garner from our 3 minutes of late Monday fun. And I came up with three:

First, the human mind is amazing. I don’t know how it works … but human beings have come up with a way to launch themselves 200 miles (and more) out into space, fly at breakneck speeds (17,000 mph in this case), and not shoot off into oblivion. Wow! Does that not teach us something about “the image of God” that is stamped on the human soul? God has created man with amazing potential. And if the created beings are that intelligent and capable … what must their Creator be like?

Second, the Space Station is, to me, another hint at Intelligent Design. In other words, the Space Station (a monument to human intelligence and scientific research) is, at the same time, an illustration of the fact that the universe didn’t spring into existence by chance. The Space Station tells me that the universe must have a Creator. How so? Well, think about it. I don’t know how much time, money, experimentation, and engineering acumen went into making a satellite that can fly at 17,000 mph, house human beings for months at a time, and measure who knows what. But I know it took a significant amount of thought, testing, research, cash, and so on. You don’t just wake up one day and – poof! – a highly intricate space station is up and running! How much less so an entire planet that has housed people for thousands of years, moves a lot faster than 17,000 mph (without crashing into anything!), and is home to the most complex of scientific realities? Surely if the greatest man-made satellite ever created didn’t happen by chance … neither did the much larger and more complex Satellite around which it orbits!

Third, it occurred to me how small I really am. On the one hand, the Space Station has to be pretty enormous for us to see it at 220 miles’ distance. But on the other hand … at only 220 miles distance, space's greatest man-made satellite looks just a little bigger than a typical night star – smaller than the tail end of a firefly dancing in the summer breeze. And it occurred to me that one doesn’t have to go very far into space (relatively speaking, of course) before the Earth itself begins to look like a blip on the radar screen. Before one even leaves the Milky Way galaxy, in fact, our entire Solar System, with its gigantic Sun, is no longer plainly visible. And ours is just one of billions of galaxies in the vastness of the universe! And yet God has chosen to make Himself known here – to make man in His image here; to give His word here; to send His Son here. Not because we are all that enormous in the grand scheme of things, but because He is willing to stoop down and love us – in spite of our smallness … and our sin.

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