A young boy stood in the center of the driveway of his family’s home. Beside him was a small telescope, mounted on a tripod. It was early in the afternoon on a hot summer day. The boy had attached a round, white screen to the eyepiece of the telescope.
According to the boy’s science teacher, a total eclipse was to happen on that particular day. The telescope with its white screened eyepiece was aimed directly at the sun.
The teacher, as well as the boy’s mother, had warned that he should not under any circumstance stare directly at the sun or look through the eyepiece. Doing so, they warned, could cause permanent damage to his eyesight.
With the telescope aimed and focused, the boy could see on the small screen an image of the sun. As he watched, the image of the moon began to move across the image of the sun. After a while, the image of the moon completely covered that of the sun. With the image of the moon inside that of the sun, he could see a small area of brightness around the outer rim of the sun.
The young boy had seen photos of a solar eclipse, but to see it for himself, with his own telescope, was absolutely amazing and thrilling. But there was more. As the boy stared at his telescope screen, a solar eruption occurred. From the outer rim of the sun, a huge flame shot out and up, rising far out from the sun.
Seeing the eclipse and the solar eruption is an experience I’ve never forgotten. On that day, I had visions of becoming an astronomer. I am not, but I continue to be fascinated by what is up there and out there.
I look around in the light of day and wonder at what I see—grass, trees, flowers, the sky in its various colors, the sun rising and setting, and clouds billowing and swirling. At night, I stare at the night sky, watching the moon and the stars, even trying on occasion to catch a glimpse of the International Space Station zooming by overhead. I stand and look, and I am amazed.
I marvel with the Psalmist (Psalm 8:3-4): “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, and the son of man that care you for him?”
We think of ourselves as self-made and self-sustaining, but we’re not. We are small beings on a relatively small planet, along with other planets, whirling around the sun, which is itself just one sun in one galaxy, which is just one galaxy among so many others. Today I entertain a notion the young boy did not—that in a universe so large, there may be other places where God has breathed life into being.
Yet, as expansive as the universe is and as small as the Earth is, God is mindful of us. We would do well to be mindful of the task God gives us, “to have dominion of the works of [God’s] hands” (Psalm 8:6)—to care for the small part of creation in which we find ourselves. It is the task God gave at the Beginning (Genesis 1:26; 2:15).
As a starting point, look around and be amazed. How majestic is God’s name!