I have been spending the weekend on the edge of a salt marsh, a tidal inlet from the ocean. It’s a constantly changing ecosystem with the seawater coming and going every moment of the day. It can be entirely filled so that it looks like a lake, or an infinite number of variations of grasses, shrubs, wildlife, and twisting furrows as the water comes and goes. I’ve seen coyotes, a red-tailed hawk, rabbits, geese, ducks.
On Friday night, I took the dogs out before bed, and the sky was crystal clear without a cloud or a moon. It was simply stars. As I gazed up across the marsh, I thought how amazing the view. I felt a sense of welcome and wonder. I took the dogs in, and they curled up into their spots, and I remembered that I had bought some binoculars. I thought they probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But what the heck? I’ll just step out the front door and take a peak.
I could not believe it. Honestly, I had never seen anything like that sky before. Where maybe there were 500 stars, I was now seeing 5,000. When I looked at Venus (my iPhone Planets app said that’s what it was), it was almost too bright to look at. Another bright star turned out to be two very close stars. Another bright star wasn’t a star at all because it looked like a galaxy I’ve seen in so many space pictures.
I had a horizon to horizon view. For 30 minutes I just gazed. Until, with the wind and the cold, I had to go back inside. I was unsettled, in a way. And so I sat in front of the fire that was almost out, stirred the remaining embers, and regenerated some flames and sat to take it in. I realized that the fire was a little star in itself. Burning fuel and giving off light and heat. Of course, it was not a star.
I reflected, if we are just on this very little planet compared to that immense night sky and we are the only ones here in the universe, then that is very scary. We are so tiny, and if our planet ceases to exist the universe will not notice. Whole galaxies collide and are destroyed, and the universe continues on. If nothing is binding all the universe together, giving it meaning and sense of order, then all I have is the little fire, my dogs, my wife, my sons, family, friends, work, and some hobbies. And then I will go away, forever, and the universe will not care or acknowledge anything of my brief time here.
As I was about to go to sleep, I went outside for just a minute more. As I looked up, I felt the comfort of my unaided, familiar view of the night sky. Then a quick sweep with the binoculars. I was reminded of a verse from Job of how God “made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south.” I closed my eyes, and I let that sink in. Yes, I am a believer, and yes, God did have a reason for making all of this.
And yes, we are not alone. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have immense moments of awe in His presence and His creation. The overwhelming sense at that moment was of His great love for me and His great interest in who I am even in the middle of the immensity of the stars and planets and galaxies around me. The Creator was showing me for the first time His bigger creation. To take it in with humility and to know I am a part of it. To rest in the peace of His beauty and awe.