"When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which comes before and after, the small space I occupy which is swallowed up into the immensity of time and space which I know nothing of and which knows nothing of me;
the limits set upon my stature and abilities, my insignificance amidst a billion galaxies of billions of stars,
the frailty and folly of my nature and the deepest hunger of my soul,
then I can acknowledge a greater, higher, wiser one,
a God whose chart is eternal and whose nature is profound".
There are all manner of experiences and encounters in life that can truly overwhelm us.
I recall one winters night in my own life when my brother drove me out into the Sussex countryside for my first real view of the milky way (an experience I actually improved upon a few years ago when I found myself on a clear night in the Rocky mountains). Looking up at all those thousands of stars, the vastness of the heavens - it sparks something deep.
One of my favourite movie moments of all time is the opening of the film, Contact. It's a great movie, with lots of interesting thoughts about science, theology and faith, but that opening scene (see the You Tube link below) really gives you a sense of our 'smallness' amidst the enormity of what surrounds our world - the overwhelming scale of time and space.
My opening quote by Pascal really puts things in context - we really are that small, and yet, most of us sense that there is something of import going on amidst the existence of this strange thing termed humanity. Even the most ardent atheist usually has a streak of optimism concerning the future of our race - that the adventure has only just begun. Why, amidst such vastness and our own propensity to corrupt and destroy do we believe something better about ourselves, especially when reality itself can be so cold and dark?
In the book of Genesis when Abraham confronts the Almighty, he meets a God that is truly God!
The Lord defines Himself as one who is greater that the countless expanse of the stars, the one found to be greater than the deepest, most terrible darkness (Genesis 15). This God tells Abraham that he will bring life to the well-nigh dead bodies of himself and his wife, Sarah, that they may have children in their old age (Genesis 17:1-10).
We are told many things about Abraham and his journeys, but the most important is without question that when he encountered this God and heard His promises, he trusted in them, and that is what changed His life so that he could indeed become the father of many who would likewise trust.
As the story of this man continues, we begin to realize a truth that Jesus referred to many generations later - Abraham's faith allowed him to 'see' the REAL promise of God of deliverance from our fallen state by the gift of God's Son. That is indeed why our kind have a future - a marvelous future - if we share confidence with Abraham, a faith in the promises made by the Almighty God. Such a faith allows us to look beyond the moment, beyond our present frailty, into the day when all of creation shall be enveloped by the redeeming love and presence of our maker.