Pale Blue Dot

In the image, you’re hard pressed to find the pale blue dot. Dusty bands of gold and green and crimson streak across the black background. A hazy glow mutes and granulates the picture quality to the point of distortion. For those of us living in the day of cell phone cameras with megapixels to spare, missing a tiny speck of blue in this reconstituted and magnified image isn’t that surprising.

But it’s there, a wan glimmer near the right side, a few specks of blue in the gold band. That dot, which could easily be mistaken for an imperfection of the film, is something familiar and bizarre at the same time—familiar because we live there, bizarre because we rarely get such a view of Earth.

When the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned back from roaring out of the solar system in February of 1990, it found our tiny planet to be at such a distance that barely anything showed up on film. A single blip was all that proved we exist—our lives, our buildings, our cities, our world—all in a dot.

What about God? Is His vantage point like that of Voyager 1? When He sits enthroned above our blue globe, does He simply see an insignificant speck that’s easy to ignore? To Him, are we simply a nameless mass of people who swarm and crawl over the earth?

Many people live that way—Christians and non-Christians alike. They think of God—if He exists—as some sort of white bearded being that glances impotently at our puny blue dot and generally ignores whatever’s there. God is a watcher, a powerless observer who flips through channels of Earth TV.

But when Isaiah pictures God as sitting above the circle of our world, the prophet does not reveal a passive eavesdropper more interested in Himself than our pain. Instead, God is the One who created each star and knows them all by name. That’s not impotence. That’s big.

It’s easy to think, “Yeah, He’s big. But does He see me?”

The people of Israel hoped He hadn’t in Isaiah’s day. They figured He couldn’t be troubled with a sin here or there. Unfortunately, for them, He doesn’t get tired or sleep or miss things. They couldn’t hide. Neither can we. And that’s good.

Living on a tiny planet that easily disappears in the blackness of space can seem deflating. But God’s not like us. Our most distant spacecraft can barely make out the rock we call our home, but He has no such trouble. He sees each of us with perfect clarity.

More amazing is that He loves what He sees.

He doesn’t sit and stare or get a kick out of human suffering. He gives power to the faint, strength to the weak, and flight to the fallen. And at one point in human history, He zoomed in on this pale blue dot, getting close enough to walk over the dust and taste the sting of death.

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Where Are the Haters?

As far as I know, no one hates me, and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. I can claim to having caused mild irritation, since I’ve had my share of blogger attacks. One, in fact, compared me to an unidentified member of the Three Stooges (I vote for Moe). But I wouldn’t call their responses hate—more like what one feels for a shirt collar that won’t stay down.

But when I look at the life of Christ, there’s one thing I definitely don’t see: tepid responses. You don’t read about how the Pharisees were mildly annoyed with Jesus as He journeyed through Judea. You don’t see how the crowd got together and rolled their eyes at Jesus. You don’t hear the story of Jesus being the focus of a slightly mocking lampoon during the Passover celebration.

No, a funny thing happened on the way to the truth. People got mad—really mad. Jesus sometimes directly attacked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and flipped over tables and delivered woes, but most of the animosity He generated came from teaching about God and healing people. He’d make a crippled hand whole or forgive somebody or tell people who He was, and crowds wanted Him dead.

When was the last time someone hated you for speaking the truth? I can’t recall any time that someone tried to stop me because they detested God, the same God they saw in my life and heard in my words.

I’m not advocating that Christians go out and pick fights or flame Internet message boards or any other sort of confrontational action. There’s no need. If we’re telling the truth, some people will hate it and hate us. When the Word is preached, the rancor is sure to follow. It’s inevitable: Preach the word; get the haters.

But where are mine? As an American Christian, I’m more likely to boycott and petition and rail against perceived injustices than see a single personal threat. I get riled up by thinking there’s a “they” out there trying to take away my freedom—even if I have no clear idea who those “they” are.

It’s not that I want people to persecute me. The thought scares me, to be honest. But if Jesus said we’re blessed when others revile us, when they persecute us and say false things about us because of our witness, then I wonder how effective my witness really is when the most I can say is that I’ve irked an atheist or two. Can I rejoice and be glad because of a single, vague epithet?

Give It Up

It’s easy to trust easy chairs. You ease, flop, or drop into the cozy stuffing without worrying about much from this living room throne. It’s a chair, and it does what it’s supposed to do. You trust it to be comfortable and there.

Rarely do we trust God like that, though.

We say we do, of course, but we live like we don’t. God says to help others, and we do—when we have a bit extra to give. But we rarely suffer or give something up to do so. We meet our own needs first, and then we see what’s left in the bottom of our pockets for the family living in a tent by the interstate (and, yeah, they live there).

Jesus healed on the way to healing, saved when He was exhausted, and made a sizable blood donation. He didn’t give the leftovers; He gave it all. We may not be Him, but we are supposed to be like Him.

If you’ve received a call, did you count the cost, consider it too high, and find something else to do? Jesus left no room for shuffling after Him at our own pace, traipsing along as we wish. Not even if the excuse sounds great to others.

Give it up—whatever has been holding you back from the call—even if it hurts. Only then can you honestly say, “To live is Christ.”