They said thank you for outer space. For stars in their many explosive elements, for the chaos of the cosmos. They said thank you, and then asked what the stain was on the table cloth – a white bit of wax from a candle as equally compelling as the rapidly expanding universe.
She told me that the we can map things on DNA. That from Shakespeare to binary code to the ATGC of our beings and back, and it’s perfect. Someday, maybe, scientists will figure out how to store information inside DNA and synthesize it. More flexible than computer chips, more durable, evolved over the billions of years to be something that lasts.
I read that the galaxies are racing apart at rates we can’t understand. That equations are the only way we can describe those first few moments of universe ignition, where a hair of difference at a fraction of a fraction of a millisecond holds the potential for life. I read and read, all these stories about how vast it is. I close my computer. Because our bones are calcium carbonate which is what makes shells and the white cliffs of Dover, because we are water and so is the ocean, because we are material, and so is this world, and yet it is a thumbprint among billions of others.
When we are overwhelmed by our smallness, we rush to extravagant declarations of our importance. We whisper that we have been singled out as a people. We hug ourselves in the dark and proclaim that we are unique, particular, singular being with singular purpose. We often pray prayers loud and defiant, hoping that our voices will drown out the startling recognition that we do not know the purposes of our God in the other corners of His world. That we do not know why he made a world at once intelligible and elusive, what he is working in the far-flung hiding places in galaxy NGC 6872. It bothers us not to know, doesn’t it? It bothers us to imagine that God has mysterious and infinite purposes outside our understanding. What if that means we will not know everything? What if that means we are not the center of the universe?
And God laughs at these flares of our temper and continues to delight in His laws and their mysterious, glorious revelations. And the whole heavens declare His glory, while we stare up at them and still wonder if we can chase down the knowledge, outrun God’s creativity, gain control for ourselves.
But the children are right, aren’t they? We should instead say thank you. We should fling prayers of gratitude out from ourselves into this vastness, wing a prayer in praise of NGC 6872 and all that we cannot know about it. Because in the moments we doubt our significance we must be caught up in Him who made all things, and all things good.
When galaxies overwhelm you, give thanks. Because He is that infinitely creative. Because He is that beautiful, that real, that present. Stand under His sky. Sing out with all your being. Echo all the wonder you hear.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?
And echo back the wonder.