I used to idly wonder how God could possibly look after 6 billion people at the same time.
I mean, how's he keeping straight who's who, and who's wrestling with what personal issue?
Just to be safe, would it be prudent for me to reintroduce myself each time I pray, just so I'm not confused with some guy in Saskatoon?
I'm guessing that the well-documented mayhem and strife of this world might give God some restless nights.
And, what if about a half billion of us decided to pray to him at the same moment? Could he handle the surge? Is he overburdened on weekends?
While all of the above is decidedly tongue-in-cheek, I've grown to accept over the years the fact that God is God, and I'm not. I insult him when I ascribe to him my feeble abilities and glaring limitations.
I confess, however, that I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the concept of an infinite being who's personally involved in the affairs of 6 billion. Talk about taxing available bandwidth!
I recently watched a program on the Discovery Channel that put things into perspective. It said that the Milky Way — our galaxy — is about 100,000 light years in diameter and contains 200 billion stars.
What's that mean? If the sun were represented by the period at the end of this sentence, our galaxy would be the size of the continental United States.
But wait, it gets even more incredible. There are hundreds of billions of other galaxies — maybe a trillion — in the observable universe. That's more stars than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.
Feeling tiny yet?
Seems the scientific community has come to grips with the size of our universe in recent decades. When I was a kid my favorite astronomy book, which I kept on a shelf next to my bed, said that in addition to our Milky Way there were several "other galaxies" in the known universe.
Now we're being told there are a trillion. Forget how far mankind has advanced in the last century; look at how much larger God has gotten!
Think the one who created and maintains hundreds of billions of galaxies — each with a couple hundred billion stars, not to mention a plethora of nebulae, planets and satellites — can finesse a paltry half billion simultaneous inquiries from the same rural ZIP code?
A piece of cake, no doubt!
As the prophet Jeremiah wrote 600 years before Christ: "Thou has made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for thee."
God's power was evident even before the Hubble Space Telescope began providing stunning images for denizens of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Some people view the vastness of space and conclude that humanity's importance in the scheme of things is negligible. We're a woebegone race stranded on a tiny island in a trackless sea. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross doesn't see it that way, however. He's of the opinion that the universe's extraordinary size is really all about us.
Why didn't God create our modest solar system, a few stars and let it go at that? Because, if Ross is to be believed, size matters.
If the universe weren't as large as it is, he postulates, fusion would be inefficient. As a result, the universe would produce hydrogen, or hydrogen plus a small amount of helium. That means carbon and oxygen — both essential for life — would be missing.
"[God] went to the expense of building 100 billion trillion stars," Ross says, "and carefully shaped and crafted [them] for the entire age of the universe so that for this brief moment in time we could [exist]."
That's worth contemplating.
He did it all for us, and for such a time as this.
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.