I know, I made the word up: “minificence.” I’ll define it in a moment. But first, I want to ponder with you the awesome mystery of size and numbers as we look out and as we look in.
Outer Space: As we look out on God’s Universe we cannot even fathom how huge, how magnificent is the size of the universe. We cannot comprehend such immensity. If we were to make a scale model of the Milky Way galaxy and reduce each star to the size of a grain of sugar, it would be two thousand miles wide and a thousand miles high. And that’s just one galaxy! There are billions of galaxies in the universe, which is expanding rapidly outward. Even the nearest star is over 25 trillion miles away.
And we are whirling around and outward! The earth rotates at a speed of about 1000 miles per hour (at the equator) while the earth itself revolves at roughly 67,000 miles per hour around the sun. And our entire solar system is also rotating around the center of the Milky Way galaxy at over 500,000 miles per hour. And the Milky Way galaxy is also flying outward and away (according to Doppler shift) at 1.3 million miles per hour!
Inner Space: But what is equally amazing is how vast a universe exists, hidden from the naked eye, in what we might call “inner space”: that tiny, almost invisible world of microbiology. In just a drop of pond water may exist hundreds of thousands of bacteria and microorganisms, a veritable universe unto itself. Indeed in every human body exist trillions of microorganisms in a kind of microbial fauna. Eighty different types of microorganisms live in the mouth alone. Every square centimeter of the human bowel contains as many as ten billion organisms. Every square centimeter of our skin contains about ten million individual bacteria. Even on our eyelashes are colonies of helpful bacteria and microorganisms that help keep harmful bacteria away. These massively numbered civilizations—universes really—of microorganisms are only recently known to us with the invention of powerful microscopes. And to those in this “micro-world,” our bodies must seem as massive as the universe of outer space seems to us. If a microorganism could think, it would consider our bodies a vast universe too large to comprehend. Just as there are trillions of stars, there are trillions of microorganisms. And to a microbe on an eyelash, a bacterium on the toe seems light-years away.
“Minificence” and Magnificence! If outer space is magnificent (from the Latin magnus meaning large or great) then inner space is (according to me) “minificent” (from the Latin minimus meaning small or tiny). The abundance of life in these tiny worlds boggles the mind. To the microorganisms that accompany me, I am a universe too vast to comprehend. But I am just one of over seven billion human beings on this planet. And I, even we collectively, am not large at all. I am an infinitesimally small speck, on a slightly larger but still tiny speck of dust, rotating around a fiery spark called the Sun, in a galaxy of over 200 billion other fiery sparks. And this is just one galaxy (about 100 million light-years in diameter) of over 125 billion galaxies in the known universe.
Time for wonder and awe! We’ve moved from contemplating inner space to outer space in a matter of moments but we really cannot comprehend numbers like these. It’s time for wonder and awe. God does all this with a simple word, and it is so. He knows the depths of our souls and the tiniest forms of life that cling to us. Every hair of our head is numbered and known to Him. He knows the farthest fringes of the universe. He made the stars and calls them by name. Ah, the Lord!
He who dismisses the light, and it departs, calls it, and it obeys him trembling; Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice; When he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!” shining with joy for their Maker (Baruch 3:33-35).
One of the great hymns says, O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder; Consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Do not forget to meditate on God’s wonders. It is a great antidote to pride. God has done indescribable and marvelous things. And more is unseen than seen.
The book of Sirach says, Beyond these, many things lie hid; only a few of his works have we seen (Sirach 43:34).