by Melissa Brotton  |  18 October 2021  |

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 NKJV)

Some of my earliest memories of childhood are of walking with my mom and sister on backroads near our family farm just 30 miles or so from the Canadian border. With the summer sky arching above and variegated hills rolling out on each side, we absorbed the simple beauties of the countryside. Purple larkspur and golden mustard lined the road along with wild prairie roses. Beyond these roadside blossoms were crop-rows of wheat, barley, sunflowers, and soybeans alongside pastures overlain with alfalfa, clover, big bluestem, and buffalo grass.

Later, after moving to town, I loved to lie in the backyard and stare up at the clouds as the breezes shaped them. Puffy sky-retrievers ran in slow motion and became elongated dachshunds. Coiled dragons blew long wisps of steam, and angels, their wings tipped in sunlight, rushed with footballs over jet-lines. I pictured God enjoying my delight in His sky-show, and I wondered if anyone else saw the same shapes that I did.

About the same time, my dad bought a small reflector-scope, and my sister and I saw close-ups of the planets and the moon. I saw a tiny, red Mars and the rings around Saturn. For the first time, the universe’s secrets were opened to our eyes. Later, my parents gave us a science kit, complete with microscope, slides, and specimens to study. Every minute thing I witnessed through that microscope was a monument to God’s genius, from the butterfly wing-feathers to tiny pollens and spores prepared on slides.

In fifth grade, I created a soil-conservation poster. Carefully, I colored in the strip-fields I knew by heart, some devoted to one type of crop, some to others. I included a shelter-belt and a ditchwater pond inspired by my grandparents’ farm. My teacher shared with us what I already understood, that conservation was a divine principle and an intrinsic part of good stewardship.

By eighth grade my family had relocated to a larger town with another two-room Adventist school. We had a new teacher that year, and we were each assigned a constellation to study for our science projects. We were to memorize the names and places of the major stars in our constellations. He also had us plot them out in a simple software program. I still recall the location of Vega, Lyra’s brightest star. Our teacher used his worship time to connect our science lessons to reflections of God’s infinite creativity. This was a God who counted every star and knew each one by name. The brilliance of the Creator was stamped on my heart during that time, His intimate knowledge of each of the millions of stars in our galaxy alone. I felt God come close to inspire me about His grand and loving designs in the night sky.

That same year Halley’s Comet was on its way, and my teacher invited the whole class to his house to see it. On a chilly April morning, while it was still dark, Mom woke us up, and we bundled into coats and got into the car. When we arrived at our teacher’s house, we saw a small group huddled together around a fairly large telescope. Each of us took a turn to look through it. When my turn came, I couldn’t see anything at first, but as my eye adjusted, I made out the tiny smudge of light that was Halley’s Comet. Though it seemed insignificant in the telescope, I felt the extraordinary weight of that moment  –  to be a witness to something so strong and mysterious together with my best friends – something we might never see again. Like other cosmic events, it was as if God had sent a messenger to hint at the unseen beyond us. And Jesus was the marvelous Architect of multiple worlds. The Friend I prayed to at night was the same One holding all this vast brilliance.

Even now, when I look at the night sky, I feel awe and tenderness toward my Creator. Often, while beneath a canopy of stars – Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Orion – I recall God’s promises to Abram one night many years ago:

“Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will be your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”[1]

The blessing of God’s presence really should have been enough for Abram. God had just promised him personal protection and every conceivable gift. But Abram remembers an earlier promise from God not yet fulfilled, and in that instant, he chooses to bring it up.

“But, Lord, what will you give me since I am still childless and now will have to leave all my possessions to my servant instead of to my son.”[2]

Then Abram repeats his complaint: “You have given me no children of my own, so my servant shall be my heir.”[3] What’s going on, God? Why haven’t You fulfilled Your promise to me yet? I’ve been waiting. I’ve been hoping in You.

God’s gracious words throb again through Abram’s heart, “Your servant shall not be your heir; a son who comes from your body shall be your heir.”[4]

Then God leads him outside to look up at the heavens. “Number the stars if you are able,” God says. “So shall your children be.”[5]

Abram looks up and is filled with wonder and humility. He is ready to stop right here, but God has more blessings to bestow. Abram will receive a country of his own, a long life, and a peaceful death. Out of the jeweled heavens, God repeats His promises to Abram and guarantees them through sacrifice.

All of God’s promises to Abram were fulfilled. The God of all things reached down to touch one longing heart. Not only that, but God also called Abram into His grand vision to bring hope and restoration to the world through the most precious gift, a seed that was to germinate and take root until Messiah appeared and beyond. That night conversation between Abram and God, like God’s conversation with Adam and Eve after their fall, marked a critical collapse of boundaries between God as Creator and God as Savior of the world.

I still lie in the backyard to see the treasures of God’s love scattered through the sky, and I still see my God, whose works dazzle the universe. In these moments, I am wrapped in profound appreciation of God’s desire to make His creatures happy with this lovely sight. This wonder I feel as I look at the heavens is the core of my conservation work – the wonder of the stars, the moon, and the rings around Saturn, the astonishment of God’s plan to involve me in His work. But the greatest wonder is God’s eternal promises guaranteed through His sacrifice and written for me in the star-fields above.

[1] Genesis 15:1b, NKJV

[2] Genesis 15:2

[3] Genesis 15:3

[4] Genesis 15:4

[5] Genesis 15:5

Melissa Brotton teaches writing and literature courses at La Sierra University. Her special areas are nineteenth-century British literature and religious studies. She has published on the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Biblical ecology. She spends a lot of time outdoors, paints, and writes nature stories and poems. 

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