Tuesday, March 17, 2009

of mirrors, telescopes, and God

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

There are two main types of telescopes, reflectors and refractors.

Refracting telescopes focus the light through a lens that bends the light and directs it to a focal point for viewing. One primary problem with refracting scopes is that the bending of light can cause the images to be unclear if the lens is not well calibrated.

Reflecting telescopes gather light with a mirror, reflecting it before directing it to the eyepiece. The more light the mirror can grab the better the astronomer is able to see what they are trying to observe.

Why I Am Going To Expound On Mirrors And Telescopes

Jesus said: “"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

As sinners, we live in darkness and so we need to grab all the light we can get. Fortunately, God made that easy. IF we abide in God through prayer and study of His Word we will be immersed in the light that can only be found in the Word made flesh.

It is amazing how often I forget how easy it is to fill my life with light. I forget to spend time in the Word or neglect my prayers and soon I stumble in the dark.

John Herschel, astronomer and son of the brilliant William Herschel, once observed “In the midst of so much darkness, we ought to open our eyes as wide as possible to any glimpse of light, and utilize whatever twilight may be accorded us, to make out, though but indistinctly, the forms that surround us.” (177)

Reflecting the Light

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. Edith Wharton

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

But this is not so easy as it sounds. The history of mirror making is long and for hundreds and thousands of years, people have put up with imperfect images of what they look like. Today, we are more fortunate. We live in a world where beautiful, useful, and even precision mirrors exist.

Pendergrast, author of Mirror Mirror describes looking into the mirror of a giant telescope “they could gaze directly down into the mirror where the stars swam—pollen in a celestial fishpond.” (245)

Imagine seeing the heavens reflected in such glory. Imagine reflecting God so beautifully.

The telescope at the Palomar mountain observatory is a reflector. For decades, it was the premier telescope in the world, in fact, one astrophysicist suggested that people didn’t think another mirror of that quality was possible and seemed to believe that the 200 inch mirror that is the heart of the telescope was ‘produced by wizards and elves and set down on this earth.” (293)

The feeling that there was something almost mystical in the production of the Palomar mountain mirror is not surprising. It took 11 years of polishing to create the mirror, which many astronomers considered perfect. During the process 10,000 pounds of glass were removed including the top two inches of surface so that the imperfections of "scar tissue" were removed.

When considering the work it took to make the nearly perfect mirror for Palomar mountain, one learns a lesson. We have ready access to the light, but often learning how to reflect it is grueling and painful.

In Isaiah, when God talks of restoring Israel He says “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.” The removal of dross means be submitted to the fire and having the impurities removed.

We cannot properly reflect the glory of God until the impurities are removed and how sad our life would be if we are unwilling to be purified so that we can be used to reflect God’s glory. Tennyson writes “How dull it is to pause, to make an end, / to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use."

I AM an instrument for His use; perhaps to bear burdens, as of pain, sorrow, or shame; perhaps to convey messages, writing, speaking, conversing; perhaps simply to reflect light, showing His mind in the commonest of all daily rounds. In only one way can I truly do anything of these; in the way of inner harmony with Him, and peace and joy in Him. Moule

At the end of the book Mirror Mirror Pendergrast writes, “Mirrors should inspire terror, wonder, and comprehension.” Obviously, Pendergrast finds mirrors awesome. So too, we should find God awesome.

Pendergrast, Mark. Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection. Basic Books. New York. 2003. ISBN 0-465-05470-6


  1. Deep and challenging thoughts.

  2. Anonymous6:43 AM

    Lovely thoughts. xx

  3. That is a challenging post made a bit less challenging by the photographs included.

  4. this is a very beautiful and challenging post...
    you amaze me...

  5. I very much like your work with this mirror, I have one in the yard that gives me some ideas. Hope things work out well for your extended family.