My boys are really interested in outer space. My youngest has a fascination (and addiction) to the app “Star Chart”. Each one of my boys has gone through a solar system phase – some longer than others – in their lives. We have what seems like three or four whole shelves in our homeschool library dedicated to space and science. We’ve been collecting them for years. I posted about our KONOS Unit on outer space that we studied when my 21 year old was in third grade back in 2006 (yes, this blog is old). I bet half of the links on that page are broken by now. Sorry!
I remember back when my 21 year old was about 6, he was so absorbed in the universe and all its magic, that we gave him a solar-system themed birthday party. I baked an Earth cake with edible blue and green glitter and we put black trash bags on every wall of the garage and made a “spaceship” from an appliance box we spray-painted silver and put bottle cap buttons on. We turned the lights down, turned a black light on, rolled the garage door shut, cracked the side door, and flooded the area around the “blasting” rocket ship with dry ice smoke. The kids were so amazed. Everyone wanted a turn in the rocket! Glow and the dark stars and planets we painted from cut-up pizza boxes hung across the vast expanse of (plastic) outer space and our garage was transformed into the fabric of the solar system.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and mama has quite a bit less energy, but I never tire of the excitement in their eyes as they geek out over God’s creation.
In our reading this past week, we were learning from a book called “How Many Planets Circle the Sun? AND OTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT Our Solar System” by Mary Kay Carson, and the boys wanted to see real images of the planets from space probes sent out by NASA, and not computer artwork. We spent some time on Wikipedia and the internet looking through images of our sister planets. In the back of our book it listed off a handy chart on how long it takes each planet to circle around the sun (one year) and make a full turn on its axis (one day).
Did you know that I’ve been alive a little over 16,425 days… and in that time, there are three planets that haven’t even made ONE trip around the sun? Uranus, Neptune, nor Pluto have traveled a full circle around our star. Saturn is the farthest planet out that has made a full orbit in 45 years. Do you know what is crazy about the list, though? ALL the gas giants turn a full circle (their full day) in less than 17 and a half hours. Jupiter and Saturn do it in around TEN.
While my 9 and 7 year old were looking at all the images with me, I was particularly fascinated with the pictures from the Juno probe. They gave me chills.
I mean, WHAT EVEN?!?! This beautiful, swirling, 3D painted ball of art, glistening and sparkling in cold deep space… and God knew that it would be THIS decade that we would finally get to see it up close in color. It just blows me away. Some astronomers even believe Jupiter protects Earth from comets that would destroy us. Our big, gassy, massive, colorful shield and protector…. is Jupiter!
At church this morning the preacher was talking about a few verses that reminded me of these Juno images.
The first verse was about the beauty of creation and how amazing it is:
Psalm 19:1-6 NIV
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
If anything is screaming “God is awesome!”, it is this glimpse of Jupiter’s blue crown. From the deepest reaches of space to the tiniest microbes on our home planet, His wonders are everywhere. Some of them, as we discussed in the car on the way home from church, are even FUNNY things that astound us and make us laugh (the platypus is a prime example). He makes me smile and awe at creation every time I contemplate it.
The other verse the preacher had in his sermon was about the groaning of creation:
Romans 8:18-25 NIV
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
This verse tells me that the perfection of creation was subject to frustration (entropy beginning with ‘the fall’) not by choice, but because God willed it so that it would eventually be liberated from bondage to decay (entropy) as will those who are children of God. So creation “groans” (and the word here means audible groaning) and we groan inwardly in our struggles and sufferings in this decaying body while we await our final redemption.
That’s as big and deep as outer space; a plan so huge it needed a galaxy Creator to pull it off.
Creation groans, we groan; and guess what? God groans, too.
Romans 8:26 NIV
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Groaning implies deep emotion and feeling. Passion about something or someone, pain and sadness maybe, heartache even, but certainly not apathy. Guess what that means? GOD TRULY, DEEPLY CARES… not just about the spinning gears of the universe, but about US.
When He sees his beloved children hurting, he groans.
He took on mortal flesh. This infinite creator of all eternity squeezed Himself into a gritty, mortal, finite human body and subjected His infinite nature to the constraints of time (much like living 33 years in a doctor’s waiting room when you have so much else to be doing with your life). It was probably almost as awful as dying on a cross to give up the ability to be beyond time and space and be trapped in mortal form, helpless and dependent upon created, imperfect beings that He knew were sinners.
WHY would He do this?
The same God that created the swirling blue clouds of Jupiter to shield Earth for us also LOVES us enough to want to walk in our shoes and offer himself up for our sins so we can be with Him forever. He didn’t want robot companions in heaven. He wanted children that loved Him back.
So, even though THIS universe is a beautiful one that He called “Good”, every day since creation we have been careening towards “the end” that is really “just a beginning”… which is what I would call the real “big bang”.
Entropy grows and expands in our closed-system universe and chaos continually wins over order because He planned it this way.
Slowly, the clock is winding down. The great red spot is shrinking. We age and wrinkle. Our houses get filled up with laundry, dust, and tiny, sharp little Legos awaiting bare feet. The “love of most will grow cold”.
BUT… in “the end”, there will be redemption of not only us (in our shiny new incorruptible bodies) but redemption of the marble of the Earth… the heavens and their glory… and although I can’t even wrap my tiny mind around it… there will be no need for a sun… because HE will be our sunshine.
Isaiah 60:19 ASV
The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but Jehovah will be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
And then I got chills again. I probably will every time I look at these Juno images. They don’t make me feel small at all. They make me feel so blessed that the King of the Universe loves me.
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Images: NASA and Wikipedia / Juno Probe