Feeling Small

Brooke and I were standing outside the church yesterday as the eclipse came along, a pretty dull show around here, especially since neither one of us had the special glasses. The light was a little funny, less intense, and it did seem cooler for a little while. It was more fun watching the news last night and seeing pictures and interviews, big crowds and long lines of traffic all along the trail of totality. It was exciting and festive. People were awestruck, cheering as the darkness fell, the streetlights blinked on, and the glasses came off. And then, about two minutes later, here comes the dawn again, not from the eastern horizon, but from every direction. How cool! I hope you got a good look with the appropriate eyewear. (Of course, if you didn't, you wouldn't be able to read this.)

The most interesting comment I heard in the interviews was this: "It made me feel small." I think this sentiment was fairly widespread. It's the feeling the psalmist expressed when these words were written:

When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
   human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)

William Beebe, the naturalist, used to tell a story about Teddy Roosevelt. At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of conversation, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite: "That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each one larger than our sun." Then Roosevelt would grin and say, "Now I think we are small enough. Let's go to bed."

It's not a bad thing to feel small, is it? We are often puffed up out of proportion, too big for our britches, pretending that we are the center of the universe. A little smallness can put us in our place and help us regain our perspective. Maybe we shouldn't wait for the next eclipse to pause, to look up in awe and wonder. "The heavens declare the glory of God."


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