A few years ago, I was away with my wife, Suzie, for a weekend getaway. After a day of exploring, we went to an observatory on the North Fork of Long Island for an opportunity to view the stars from advanced telescopes.
I was moved by the generosity and passion of the volunteers who invited people into their world to better appreciate the mystery and the glory of our existence.
There was a moment when a volunteer invited us to look at a star that had since burned out. I did not understand. How could I look at a star and it not really be there?
Both confused and frustrated, I asked that he explain it to me as if I was a child. In a nut shell, he gently explained how light-years works (which you may already be familiar).
If you share in my confusion, here is a simple explanation: let’s say a star is 4.3 light-years away. (That happens to be the next closest star to us after the Sun). As we see it now is how it was 4.3 years ago. It may have burned out by the time we are glaring in its direction.
I was then, and I am still, humbled by this mystery and the other many mysteries of life. I truly marvel that while I likely learned this lesson as a child, it was as if I was staring at the night sky with new eyes. There is also a whole wealth of knowledge that I am not exposed to, not familiar with, and not aware of as I walk this path of life.
So what is the point of this reflection, you may be asking, other than to be reminded of light-years and dead stars:
First, a recognition in how much I, and we, truly do not know. As the familiar Aristotle quote goes, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”
Second, as I take a few more trips around the sun, I marvel at the wonder of all of creation, including the stars in the sky that may or may not currently exist. From a distant star, to a newborn’s smile, to a person transitioning from this life to the next, I stand in awe at it all.
Third, if I truly pay attention to the mystery around me, I begin to feel a load lifted. If I stay in this mindset, I begin to allow the pressure to find an answer to every problem and every question fade away. Rather, I can simply enjoy life, while continuing to learn more about God as I learn more about God’s creation.
I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of trying to problem solve (even when it’s not my problem, and often when no one is asking me to solve it). A mentor said to me recently when discussing a friend’s anger, “that is his anger, and he needs to experience it so he can heal.” He added, “Your trying to fix it isn’t going to work, and even if it did, you are taking away the space, the work, and the gift of his own self-healing.”
In other words, he was saying “You are not God, stop pretending that you are.”
Like the light-year information, I was moved and I learned. It provided a different perspective, reminding me of who God is, and that I am not.
While the desire to help comes from a good place, it isn’t always my place. Some problems are not mine to solve. And as those closest to me would concur, I have enough problems of my own to work on solving first.
Join me in basking yourself in the glory of our God and God’s creation. Let’s recognize our small but important place in it all, and may we keep learning not to necessarily know more, but rather to better know God.