Last week, I purchased the Blu-ray edition of “Planet Earth.” We’d missed the series when it originally aired in the U.S. because at that time, I was still nursing my firstborn and was such a bleary, exhausted mess, the entire Ringling Brothers circus could have paraded through my living room and I wouldn’t have noticed.
But since my boys are out of diapers now, and since we’d recently acquired the prettiest TV on God’s green earth (a 47-inch LED) and a Blu-ray player, I figured this was the perfect time to view this series I’d heard so much about.
And, holy smokes.
After turning on the first episode, I found myself paralyzed, unable to tear my eyes from the screen. For the longest time I stood there, slack-jawed in the middle of the room, because I couldn’t glance down long enough to take a seat. For someone who’s developed a later-in-life love of all things science, this presentation is magical…breathtaking. I kid you not, it makes me weak in the knees.
As the high-definition cameras soar over thousands of miles of the earth’s surface and into its depths, a seemingly unending bounty of wonders and marvels unfolds. The size and scope of our home planet, the artistry and creativity on display within it, are almost beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend.
Our planet, as captured in a famous 1990 photograph taken from the Voyager I space exploration craft (which at that time was 3.7 billion miles away from Earth), is but a pale blue dot in the dark void of outer space. The diameter of just the known universe stretches an unfathomable 93 billion light years across.
It’s enough to give you pause. If our planet is so tiny, what does that make each of us – mere specks on the surface of a speck? Our bodies, so substantial to us – our lives, so monumental to us – are truthfully smaller than dust; smaller than an atom; smaller than a neutrino. We are, in the broadest sense, “infinitesimal,” a word that was coined to describe “objects so small that there is no way to see them or to measure them.” A word that bears a dismaying resemblance to “insignificant.”
And yet – there is another word, and it changes everything.
It changes everything about us, about our planet, about the universe, about all the millions of scientific wonders that we can goggle at with our most intelligently designed technology. It’s the most astonishing word in any language.
God with us. Which is to say, God with me.
THE God – with me. The God who created – not just the electrons that bang around inside of the blades of grass on the savannah; not just the drops of rain that fall on the grass; not just the winds that blow the rain down in thundering sheets; not just the atmosphere that encloses the pressure that carry the winds; not just the energy that filters through the atmosphere from the molten star we call our Sun; not just the sun that boils out from a core of nearly 16 million degrees – but an expanse goes much farther and deeper and wider than everything we can touch, than even all we can see, into the vast darkness of a universe that swirls and spins and dances with billowing gas clouds that are larger than our entire galaxy, a universe that you’d have to streak across faster than the speed of light to merely reach the next mailbox…THAT God, the God who opened up his hands and poured all of that forth…
Is here, right this second. Right in the middle of my sweaty, often ridiculous existence: with me in my ignorance, my foolishness, my puniness, my boredom, my want, my need, my restlessness – in the middle of my inescapable humanity. In a universe of sonic booms and exploding stars, He inclines his head and listens to the whooshing of the blood that tunnels through my particular veins. He whispers…to me.
That the presence of God touches man at all is the most astounding truth in the universe – but this God does not just deign to touch us. He longs to.
He longs for every single human He has ever breathed life into.
Emmanuel: the mystery that brings the Creator down to our level. Not God above us, but God with us. Not in the abstract; not as a musty theological concept, but right here. In every heartbeat.
Emmanuel. That God, impossibly, astonishingly, with us.