In July of 2015, as I sat and watched body and soul begin to separate in my arms, an unmanned spacecraft called “New Horizons” was sending NASA images of Pluto. As it hurtled past Pluto at something like 36,000 miles per hour, my near motionless daughter began her descent into death. After a journey that took more than nine years time, the spacecraft was fulfilling its mission. Meanwhile, I was just one human, holding another on my front porch on planet Earth; keenly aware of my present pain but vastly ignorant of the human-meets-science feat taking place 4.6 billion miles away. New Horizon’s mission to capture a close-up portrait of Pluto is complete, but somewhere out there, she is still going.
I’m humbled and oh-so thankful.
Our big world, our gorgeous Earth, she is just one beautiful sphere, orbiting one sun in a vast magnificent expanse of space. She is just one drop in a sea of profound mystery, and yet the Bible says somehow God cares about me. The capacity and reach of His love blows my mind. When the breeze catches my hair, He can count how many follicles sway. When a spacecraft dials home, He can watch the path of its transmission unfold. While I am missing my daughter here on Earth, He forever holds her in His sight.
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26
There’s truth and mystery that my finite mind cannot even begin to comprehend, yet I feel as though my God-designed soul understands via expression of deep, deep gratitude.
I do not understand, yet I praise.
I am not worthy, yet I hope.
I can barely even glimpse, yet I love.
I am fleeting, yet I believe.
I am sinner, yet I am thankful.
In elementary school I learned “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (the planetary mnemonic to teach the order of planets in our vast solar system). Today, the pizza is missing and mom just serves nachos.
Science changed it’s mind. It’s not news to you, I’m sure. After 70 years, Pluto got booted. The dwarf demoted. New discoveries uncovered truth where most didn’t even expect mystery. I know that I myself never doubted Pluto, his rank in our Solar System or the validity of his planet-ness. I wonder how God giggles and delights as we discover and change here on Earth.
On July 20th of this year my life changed again when I held my new newborn daughter in my arms. As I watched her first breaths, I folded her into our family through the miracle of adoption. As I prayed words of gratitude for my new mission as her mom, I told God the trajectory of her life is pointed at Him. And then my heart whispered words of hope and I told her “dream big, hope bigger, my little one.”
That day was the anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s 1969 monumental first moon-landing. A moment of history we all learn, but this year, I learned a fact about the moon-landing that was missing from my elementary education. When Buzz and Neil landed the moon rover, do you know what they did first? Before Neil took those famous first steps, Buzz Aldrin sent a radio broadcast back to planet Earth asking all to contemplate the events of that day and to give thanks. What happened next was blacked out from the broadcast, but is forever recorded in history: He took communion.
Science is changing, our understanding ever-unfolding. Dreams, once only hopes, are being fulfilled. Let’s take a moment to use gratitude to ponder it all. As we feast together in communion of thankfulness this week, let’s remember: no measure of light-years can separate us from the love of God. He is ever in communion with us.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1