Who remembers a teacher asking him to name the planets in the solar system, starting from the sun outward? Chances are, you included in your lineup a ball of gas named Saturn, which is distinguished by its rings. But have you ever seen it?
Maybe you’ve seen artists’ renditions of far-off planets. Maybe you’ve seen photographs from telescopes launched into space. But have you seen Saturn?
There are nights when Saturn is visible to the naked eye. Except it resembles one of many stars. If you don’t know where to look, you’ll never find it. And how do you “know” it’s Saturn and not something else?
I’ve seen Saturn twice, for real.
The first time, a neighbor parked his hobbyist’s telescope, which was about the height and breadth of a kindergartner, on his driveway. He then summoned all passerby, who were out for their evening walks, to view what he’d found. This otherwise dignified lawyer was positively hopping up and down, like a kid on Christmas morning.
I peered into the eyepiece, and sure enough, a silvery looking, vaguely striped sphere, encircled by rings, presented itself.
A few years later, another neighbor, who was working on her Master of Science degree, invited us to visit her accredited institution of higher education. She promised what she wanted to show us would knock our socks off.
Walking through that place at night made us feel like burglars, until we came to a stand-alone building with a room that could accommodate a king-sized bed. Instead of a bed, a ginormous telescope wired to a flatscreen occupied the room.
The image on the screen was magnificent, but I wasn’t satisfied with a digital image. Any amateur can make images. So the neighbor directed me to the eyepiece on the telescope.
There it was, with nothing between me and the ringed gas giant but empty space and a few mirrors and lenses. The sphere was of varying shades of yellow, gray, and tan. It came across as deceptively serene, regal, and with nothing to prove. Clearly, it’s much bigger than I am. I’m insignificant in comparison. The entire earth is tiny in comparison. Our socks weren’t just knocked off; it took our breath away.
Should we believe everything we’ve been told? Of course not. But there’s nothing like peering into an eyepiece and seeing something for real, as it is, no embellishments, no digitally altered images, no created image whatsoever. The honest teacher from long ago told us Saturn exists, and it does. I believed her as a school girl, and I believe her now, because I’ve seen it. Twice.
People speak of experiences they have had that make them believe God exists. Should I believe them, too? lol. Again, probably not. But what will happen to me after I die? Did I ferret out and follow the tenets that will secure for me a comfortable afterlife, or will the universe laugh at me before it absorbs my soul? Or is there nothing out there to mock my littleness? Is there no wise creator of this amazing creation that’s so much bigger than I am?
Does anybody know where the eyepiece is, so I can have a look?
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place – What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, put all things at his feet. (Psalm 8:4-7)
Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. (Romans 1:20)