I never met my father’s father. He died several years before I was born and I knew him only as the mysterious “grandpa,” a tall and powerful figure in black and white photos and old newspaper clippings. But my mother’s father I knew well. He was “Bapa” to his grandchildren, a name bestowed upon him by my brother who, with his privileged position as the first grandchild, had his infantile attempts to say “grandpa” turned into a proper name.
Bapa died many years ago, and one of my final and fondest memories comes from when he lived with my family for a time. My grandmother had died and Bapa was descending into Alzheimer’s, but though his memory was fast fading, he would still engage in conversation and would sometimes take an interest in me. One evening I mentioned my interest in computers and his response made me smile then and now. He said, “Computers are amazing these years. They can add….and subtract…and…” And he could go no further. That was all he had.
He was amazed by computers and knew they had stupendous capabilities, but he had no real knowledge of what those capabilities were. He was familiar with only their most basic functions and knew there had to be much more beyond that.
For some reason I thought of that little episode last week when I was at Creation Museum. Of all the exhibits I saw there, the one I may have enjoyed most was the planetarium. The planetarium is a state-of-the-art theater that allows you to recline and gaze up into “space.” The presentation there is meant to display just some of the beauty and vastness of space and in it all to display the obvious hand of a designer who means to make a statement about himself (and, by comparison, to make a statement about us as well).
Not surprisingly, as I gazed at the stars and planets and tried to wrap my brain around some of the trillions of light years of distance between myself and those vast constellations, I found Psalm 8 running like a track somewhere in the back of my brain. “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 you care for him?”
Thousands of years ago, David gazed up into space with the naked eye and saw the moon and perhaps a few thousand stars. He saw just the smallest part of what God had created in space, an amount almost too small to measure. For all we know, he may have thought this was the complete sum of what God had hung in the sky above, and he marveled at it. His wonder led him straight to worship as his heart rejoiced in the God who could create all of this.
A few days ago I looked at stars billions of lifetimes away and stars so immense they make this entire earth look like a grain of sand by comparison, and I wondered what David would say if he could see what we see and if he could know what we know. What would he say if he learned there are 300 billion stars just in our little galaxy and that there may be another 150 billion galaxies beyond our own? The numbers become too big to calculate and stretch our minds far beyond what we can comprehend or even imagine. The immense power and authority of the Being who created this defies all description and all comparison. And to think that he allowed himself to be clothed in flesh, that he was born onto this little speck in space, that he considered us significant, that he even gave up his life to save us. We can ponder that for eternity and never reach the end of it.
Bapa saw only the most basic functions of a computer and marveled. David saw only the most immediate stars and worshipped. It does us good to gaze into space, whether with the naked eye or with the eye of our latest and greatest technologies. And we will find that the words of the psalms ring true all the more. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).