Today I’m sharing a chapter from my Christmas book, In My Heart I Carry A Star. If you own a copy, this is the devotional offering for Wednesday in the third week of Advent.
Enjoy – DEREK
LOVE BEYOND TIME AND SPACE
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11)
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)
Somewhere in that section of my brain that stores images, I can see one of those insightful carton strips that holds unintended theological truth. I don’t remember the artist or the era, but I do recall a man gazing incredulously into the night sky, the firmament bright and ablaze with light and glory.
“This all makes me feel so insignificant,” the man sighs. “What do you think?” “I agree,” replies his companion, with neither empathy nor tact, “I think you’re insignificant too.”
The assessment, of course, is 100% wrong. Such thinking does not take into account a loving God who is in love with creation. In the context of God’s immense, boundless, incalculable love, the unfathomable universe tells us a much different story. Sometimes I too look wonderingly into the deep night sky, and I find myself overwhelmed with a sense of how remarkably significant it all makes me feel.
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” the psalmist asks. It follows that we must be something special. Because, in the face of all that beauty and awe and the hugeness of it all, the real wonder is that God loves enough to think about Derek Maul, that God is concerned about each individual reading this page, and that God sent Jesus for our personal redemption.
We are affirmed so completely because we are chosen so specifically. The creator of this vast, glorious universe chooses to reveal love for people as individual human beings. We are God’s personal children. We sure are significant, and we certainly are loved.
Love so immense
Our world is a marvel beyond my ability to imagine. We’re hurtling through space at speeds of around 72,000 miles per hour (it’s a wonder we don’t all fall off!); simultaneously, our planet is spinning at over 1,000 miles per hour at the equator; our rotation, believe it or not, is slowing down, inconsistently but perceptibly; and the orbit the earth transcribes around the sun wobbles in relation to the gravitational forces of the other planets – some of which occasionally get clobbered by asteroids the size of Texas.
What we understand as “time” simply describes a relationship among these and many other variables. Time in actual fact is neither absolute nor is it empirically verifiable. Our understanding of time is hampered by the reality that minutes and days and hours and months are relative terms, fractions of whatever a year happens to be during the journey of one set of spinning, careening orbs in relation to another. Curiously, most of us steadfastly believe that the Earth inevitably returns – like clockwork – to a particular fixed point in space exactly every 365.25 days. Consider the following:
- More than two thousand years ago, the Julian calendar began with a 445-day “correction” year.
- In 1752 the British Parliament eliminated September 3‑13 to align with the Gregorian calendar of 1582.
- Today we quantify time by averaging the measurements of fifty atomic clocks. These clocks record the atomic oscillations of a metal called cesium, and the calendar year is now officially measured as 290,091,200,500,000,000 oscillations of Cs.
We are attempting, albeit clumsily, to craft a version of reality where people depend on the illusion of control. But there’s a fly in our ointment: we are not alone in the Universe. And, unless we are willing to consider a paradigm shift that encourages us to focus beyond ourselves, then we are destined to remain alone, slaves to the oscillations of our atoms, and blinded to the possibility that we are not the beginning and the end of all things.
Those stargazing cartoon characters missed the truth in part because of limited perspective. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially considering that even the language we speak limits us conceptually. The metaphors, the illustrations and the examples we use are necessarily drawn from our experience and our history here in this small corner of Creation. Even the best science fiction writers are confined by the earth-bound vocabulary they must think and write in. And God himself – whom I just confined with the personal pronoun – can only be described in relation to the restrictive vernacular of our small planet.
Humans have always looked to the stars, and I think it is wonderful that, for the past few decades, we have enjoyed the view from the Hubble Telescope (placed in service in 1990). The orbiting observatory is oriented away from Earth, and looks into the deep ask-yet unknown. The further into space the telescope peers, the more questions it reveals. The more we know about the scope of creation, the less of its totality we understand. We simply have to find a way to blend our science and our imagination; our knowledge and our faith; our struggle for control and our acknowledgment that we are not gods unto ourselves.
The original sin of Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 1-4) was their desire “to be like God,” and their punishment was to learn profoundly that creation was not all about them. The proper affinity of our hopes and dreams to the limitations of our mortality is to reestablish that relationship with the eternal. Our continued attempts to establish control through science alone are missing that essential element.
Indeed, as we wander further into this new eon of the measurement of time (The 21st Century), it is essential that we address, through faith, what we know “Only in part, through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13); even as we peer ‑ with wonder ‑ through our telescopes and into eternity.
Christmas reveals this most profound and unsearchable truth, confirmed every time we grasp hold of the infinite and look into the heavens. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us…”
Prayer: Unfathomable God, we acknowledge the limits of our own imaginations and intelligence. Please accompany us in our struggle to understand your love, and to apply that understanding to our lives. We ask in the name of Jesus, the one who meets us as individuals, and the one who reveals the extent of your great and abiding love. Amen
You can find In My Heart I Carry A Star at Amazon.com, or at “Page 158 Books” in Wake Forest.