Life’s simple pleasures. I have several apps on my phone that are space related. One lets me know when certain planets or stars will be visible along with various meteor showers. Another alerts me to significant events happening in space. While yet another sends me a text when the International Space Station (ISS) is overhead.
The ISS is truly an amazing project. In my view, it is nothing but positive. A variety of nations partnered in getting it built and continue to work together on missions across political ideologies. Well over 200 folks from different countries have been on board conducting invaluable research.
The other night I received an alert that the ISS would be brightly visible for nearly 7 minutes. At the right time, I headed outside, looked skyward, and sure enough, the ISS moved in a straight line directly above me. The space station goes around the earth every 90 minutes or so at a speed of roughly 18,000 mph. As I watched the ISS, which is roughly the size of a football field on earth, comments from astronauts over the years who have been in space and looked back toward the earth flooded my mind.
Neil Armstrong once said, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant, I felt very small.” And Roger Chaffee stated, “the world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way – the way God intended it to be – by giving everybody a new perspective from out in space.
The philosopher Frank White came up with a phrase that describes what happens to people when they see the earth and other objects from space. That term, “The Overview Effect.” White defines this effect as “‘a cognitive shift in awareness’ linked to ‘the experience of seeing firsthand the reality that the Earth is in space.’”
With this in mind, as I gazed skyward for a few short moments the other evening, I thought not only of the perspectives that astronauts have had while looking at the Earth from afar, but I wondered what God must think about the Earth he created.
I imagined God feels joy for all that is right and wonderful on this tiny blue dot as there is much to celebrate and for which to be thankful. But I also believe God must feel deep despair that humankind has yet to learn to live in peace. Has yet to embrace the beauty of the earth and the precious nature of every human life. Has yet to live together in unity along with deep humility and reverence toward our Creator. Has yet to live in the way in which God intends for us to live.
If only we as human beings could gain a “space” perspective of ourselves. Perhaps, in part, this is why God came to live among us, to give us at least a glimpse of how things should be on this small object in the universe. What Jesus’ life and teachings offer us, if we pay attention, is as dramatic and perspective altering as what astronauts experience in space. Jesus certainly gave us a glimpse of how things should be. And the good news is that day by day, we each can make a decision to share the glimpse Jesus gave us with others.
We all have perspectives, ways of viewing things, and habits of how we approach the vicissitudes of living. Once in a while, as the ISS moves across the sky, perhaps we each would do well to remember that there is more than one way to see things and that every one of us could use a “space” perspective now and then. When we do so, it is then we might just see things from God’s eyes.
I am reminded of the Bette Midler song “From a Distance”