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Selected specks

Small doesn’t mean insignificant in this vast universe

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July’s 50th-anniversary commemoration of the Apollo moon landing struck a few sour notes about where we were then and what we’ve done since. A great achievement, for sure, but it didn’t open a Star-Trekkian world of possibility for exploring “the Final Frontier.” Going to the moon looked like a great leap, but compared to the inconceivable size of space, a modern cynic might compare it to a puddle jump.

The universe seemed big enough even to ancients who knew nothing about it. All agreed on one thing: Looking up on a cloudless, moonless night, when the sky is pierced with stars like an overturned colander, invariably makes one feel small. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).

As knowledge expands, so does the universe, and our place in it grows correspondingly small. Our Earth, literally the center of the old Ptolemaic system, is only a particle of dust in the great scheme of things. It’s a middling satellite of an insignificant star on an arm of a massive spiral inside a galaxy that’s merely one of countless other …

Is your head popping yet? Are put-down words like only, merely, one of many, etc. making you feel like nothing much? You’re not alone. “I’m a speck on a speck orbiting a speck among other specks among still other specks in the middle of specklessness! I suck!” That’s Bill Nye the Science Guy, perhaps not the brainiest of brains, but top physicists with impeccable credentials express the same basic sentiment.

But think about it: Why are we so impressed by size?

Within the last hundred years, smallness has come to seem equally impressive. Atoms were once assumed the bedrock of matter, until their protons, neutrons, and electrons gave way to particles and subparticles and quarks, and we’re still not to the end of it. Weaving it all together is the “God particle,” long speculated, supposedly discovered, never actually seen. In spite of the nickname, God as an actual entity is not necessarily assumed. It’s all “specks.”

As you consider the heavens, God is considering you, and it’s not according to your bigness or smallness, but His vast and abiding love.

Materialist science can’t find God in space or time. But if God is who He says He is, He made space. And time. Bigness and smallness are works of His hands.

What if, in presenting us with unthinkable size, He’s making a point backed up by Scripture? “The last shall be first.” “You must become like a little child.” “God rejects the proud, but exalts the humble.”

Within the massive vault of space stands a speck of a creature, the only known creature in the entire universe who can observe and think about it. At one point in time, the Creator opened a door in space and walked in, humbling Himself still further to become a particle of dust within His own creation—with an aim to redeem it all.

I don’t know what redemption will look like, but here’s my speculative, very unscientific picture of the cosmos. We’ve learned that the universe is expanding, like ripples on a pond. What if it’s more like a balloon, so big its curve looks flat? It expands by the breath of God, but He keeps His eye on one speck of dust on the surface of space: our tiny planet with its tiny souls.

One day, there will be no more days. Perhaps the cosmos will pop at a single prick, revealing the holy city with open gates that glow like pearl, filled with “innumerable angels in festal gathering and the assembly of the firstborn.” Or perhaps it will shrink again, all its glory gathered up, in the blink of an eye, to shine on the new creation.

What will really happen is beyond imagination. But I know this: Size won’t matter a whit. It doesn’t matter now. As you consider the heavens, God is considering you, and it’s not according to your bigness or smallness, but His vast and abiding love.

Janie B. Cheaney Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD's annual Children's Book of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.


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