An engineer I know works in the field of missile defense. I made it my mission to learn more about his work whenever I could. Inevitably, he would respond to most of my questions with a laugh saying: “If I told you, I would have to kill you!” His work was of a classified nature. In one conversation, my engineer friend spoke generally about how difficult it was to direct a missile to hit an exact target in space at a specific time, especially since that target was moving! “In many ways,” he said, “it is guess work.” Utilizing the best technology, science, and math would only reduce the errors in the guessing, ultimately bringing the missile into contact with the target.
Like missiles meeting moving targets within the limitless bounds of space, such connections happen all around us every day in the form of human touches. Think about every handshake, hug, or kiss - are these interactions merely the product of grand guesses or accidents? Could it be that instead, something more is at work, something intentional, placing the right people, in the right space, at the right time to connect in such a meaningful way?
At a minimum, three alignments must occur in order to experience a human touch: space, time, and the people!
What does it mean for two humans to connect in the same SPACE? Consider these facts gathered from a quick Wikipedia search:
• A galaxy is a grouping of stars, gas, dust, planets, and other space-things, bound together by gravity. In the observable universe, it is estimated that there are 200 billion to 2 trillion or more galaxies! Smaller galaxies may have a few hundred million stars, and a giant galaxy may have one hundred trillion stars.
• One of those many galaxies is called “The Milky Way.” The Milky Way alone is estimated to contain 100-400 billion stars and more than 100 billion planets. (That’s only one galaxy…of billions or even trillions more!)
• One of those billions of stars is the one we know, depend on, and love called “the Sun,” forming a Solar System with several planets. One of those planets is Earth.
• The total surface area of planet Earth is about 197 million square miles. Of that number, only 57.51 million square miles is land.
• That 57.51 million square miles of land is divided into seven continents, and just short of 200 countries.
• One of those countries is the United States of America, with 50 states, a federal district, five territories, and other possessions.
• One of those states is Arkansas, with 75 counties and 502 incorporated municipalities.
• One of those incorporated municipalities is the city of El Dorado, with an area of 16.3 square miles.
• 16.3 square miles is about 454,417,920 square feet.
• To share a touch, two people must share the same 2 square feet or so of space. That means, out of the 454 million square feet in the same city, in the same state, in the same country, on the same continent, on the same dry land, on the same planet, around the same star, in the same solar system, within the same galaxy, among the billions or trillions of galaxies in the universe, two people must be with the same 2 feet of each other!
If your head isn’t spinning yet, consider that two people must also be within the same 2 square feet at the same TIME. (These facts are also from Wikipedia…)
• On the low end, some believe Earth was created less than 10,000 years ago.
On the high end, some believe Earth has been around for nearly 5 billion years!
If we take the least of those numbers, say 10,000 years —
• that translates into a time span of 3,650,000 days,
• which is 87,600,000 hours,
• and 5,256,000,000 minutes,
• and 315,360,000,000 seconds.
• To share a touch, two people must converge within the same one second of all those 315 billion seconds (at least), while at the same time being within the same 2 square feet of each other!
But don’t forget — a touch must ALSO occur between two distinct PEOPLE. (Again, Wikipedia data…)
• One estimate of the “total number of people who have ever lived” is at 107.6 billion people.
• Only 7.7 billion people (give or take), are believed to be alive right now, in this moment.
• About 328,285,992 people are estimated to be living in the United States,
• with some 2,978,204 people living in Arkansas,
• and some 19,000 people living in El Dorado.
• Only 25 people (or even 4) may be in your classroom at school!
• To share a touch, you must have at least two distinct people together, at any one second in time, within the same two square feet of space!
We can re-hash all that data again and again and arrive at the same conclusion - a touch between two people is truly an incalculable wonder! Unlike the action of directing a missile to hit a moving target in space (humans can accomplish this), we can’t orchestrate time, space or people to create such interactions even if we wanted to! We are limited, and can only work within the time we are given (that we did not create), and the people we know (that we did not create), and the space accessible to us (that we did not create).
We cannot set up a meeting next week with Abraham Lincoln, the Apostle Paul, or Alexander the Great - because they don’t live in our time. We cannot meet at a coffee shop on Mars (or on whatever that rock is that was once called Pluto) - because those spaces are not accessible to us (at least…not yet). More than likely, you and I will not be meeting with the President of the United States today, because even though he lives in our time - he is not a person we can interact with at our own choosing.
So let me ask you — What does a touch mean to you? Could it be that every interaction is a divine appointment or gift, orchestrated by God for us to steward well?
We may not like the people we meet in the stairwell, cross paths with in the hallway, or share a table with at lunch. We might wish for different company in the classroom or other co-workers in the office. Perhaps you dream of living in a different place or another decade or century.
Yet, the truth is this - we are all exactly where we have been placed, when we have been placed there, with those we have been placed with, by the One who created all of time, people, and space!
So look around. See those people…your neighbors…?
That is who the Creator has given you to interact with in this time and space. To steward well…Your handshake, hug, or touch will memorialize for all of time that your paths crossed, amongst the countless seconds, innumerable square feet, and billions of people who have ever lived. So let that touch reflect the Creator and His gift, orchestrated in this moment of time - unless you believe it is all a coincidence, happenstance, or guess.
Christopher Campbell teaches the 9th/10th grade Bible Class at West Side Christian School and is the Associate Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church where he oversees Immanuel’s ministries and resources. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University and Beeson Divinity School. Before moving to Arkansas, Christopher ministered in North Alabama for several years. He is married to Marianne and they have two young children. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.