Seeing Beyond the Milky Way

by Ward Shope

Last Wednesday night just before we went to bed, we stepped out onto the porch at the back of the place we were staying. I was awestruck. Looking up into the night sky there were so many stars with the Milky Way haze behind it that we actually could not readily identify the common constellations. We didn’t know where to begin. There are only two other places I’ve been where I’ve seen as many stars – once in a remote place in a desert, the other in a remote region of the mountains.

According to Google there are between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in our galaxy – just one among up to two trillion(!) or more galaxies in the universe. Talk about exponential numbers! I suppose one could talk rationally and logically about these facts while standing on the back porch looking up, but not until after a deep breath of wonder with the appropriate recovery period. Wow!!! There’s probably a better word for my response, but my vocabulary isn’t big enough and thoughts don’t come easy when contemplating it all.

Psalm 8 says, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! … 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?”

Apparently the One behind this massive display is looking at us, concerned about us, willing to sacrifice His Son for our good and His glory. There’s nothing wrong with His farsightedness. I’m actually a little more concerned about how I and my fellow human beings don’t look back. Even when we do, we rarely see things well or miss them altogether.

The reason the Milky Way is often not visible has to do with ambient light, humidity, pollution, daylight from the sun, limits of the human eye and probably a host of other things. Since we don’t or can’t see it, we don’t tend to look up. There are too many other things right in front of us begging to be looked at. It’s a demonic conspiracy. Our world becomes reduced. In my mind, I know the Milky Way is out there, but I only see and interact with what’s right in front of me.

Our culture, which is not looking back, continually keeps us busy looking at anything other than the Author of the stars. Most of us are tempted to believe we have what we need right in front of us to make life work. I just to have think things through, put in more effort, arrange my life, increase political punch, change my attitude, live for others and use all the tools available to make it happen. My goals get all twisted, I lose my sense of purpose and direction, and I live as if what’s in front of me or in the news or on my phone is reality.

It’s not. There’s a much bigger Reality beyond it all that shows the pettiness of my priorities and the weakness of my works and begs me to look back, to see the expanses and the promises and the covenants beyond the stars. In those special moments of clarity, when the Spirit enables me, I do look back. And through cross and the revelation of the Word, I see Him. Wow!!!