Last week, Pastor Curt spoke in week two of our series “Rooted.” If you couldn’t make it to the service, be sure to watch it online on Bridgewood’s facebook page, or listen to the podcast here on the church website.
In his message, Pastor Curt used props, and - as one would expect - food to illustrate a point. He lifted up two balls, one, a small bouncy ball about an inch in diameter, and another larger rubber ball about ten inches in diameter. He used them to stand in for the Earth and the Sun, respectively. He explained how the Sun is 1.3 million times bigger than the Earth, and the Earth is spinning at 1,040 mph on its axis, while the Earth rotates around the sun at 67,000 mph. With those facts in mind, I’d like to give one more: the solar system rotates at 550,000 mph within the Milky Way galaxy.
Next, Pastor Curt asked us a question that inspired me to write this latest entry. He asked: does anyone feel it? I think most of us would agree we don’t feel like we are moving at 550,000 mph. Like Pastor said, we typically receive those facts as “no big deal,” or “just another day.” But why don’t we feel it? Why do we feel 75mph in a car more than 550,000 mph in a solar system?
A number of years ago, Santa Claus was subjected to science and mathematics as part of a viral internet posting called An Engineer’s Perspective on Santa Claus. In this article, it was found in the 31 hours at his disposal (time gained due to time zone changes traveling east to west) he would have to visit a total of over 90 million homes, and he would have to visit over 800 homes per second to keep on schedule. To make that schedule, his sleigh would have to travel over 3,000 times the speed of sound (767mph), totaling over 2million mph. Even with only one gift of modest weight to deliver per child, the sleigh would weigh hundreds of thousands of tons. That weight and speed would create so much air resistance, the sleigh, its pilot, and its reindeer, would all burst into flames and vaporize instantly. Furthermore, the instant acceleration to that speed would generate 17,000 g’s, a force which would reduce Santa and his reindeer to a pulpy mess. In short, Santa Claus would certainly feel that speed, at least for a very brief moment before his death.
The reason we notice 75mph more easily than 550,000mph, and the reason Santa would briefly feel his first and final flight, is because of the resistance and opposing forces felt. In a car, we feel moments of acceleration and deceleration, and the g’s that go along with them. We feel the shock through the wheels as we hit bumps, potholes, deer, mailboxes, or whatever else we make contact with according to our various levels of driving talent and experience. We feel the vibration of the car on the road that tells us we are moving. When the windows are down, we feel wind resistance. And we see the landscape passing by, which further helps us feel movement.
I boarded an airplane for my first flight four years ago. When the plane took off, I felt the g’s push me back into my seat, and I watched through the window as the runway and airport rushed by us. But as soon as we reached our cruising altitude, the g’s went away, and I felt like I was simply sitting in a chair. There was no turbulence, no vibration, or any feeling of acceleration or deceleration. Had I shut the window cover, I would not have much to indicate I was moving. I could very well think I wasn’t going anywhere. Our cruising altitude was so high - close to 45,000 ft - I could see the spherical shape of the earth; I could see the Mississippi River traveling from horizon to horizon; I could see as we passed over all the farmland between Detroit and Dallas, and yet, if I woke up blindfolded, I couldn’t have told you I was on a plane.
We can’t feel the rotation of the earth on its axis, its rotation around the sun, or the rotation of the solar system because that rotation happens in a vacuum and is constant. We don’t feel the cosmos slowing down and speeding up because the speed stays the same, there is no resistance, and we are matching that speed. But what if everything stopped rotating in a sudden stop? I’m not a physicist, but I imagine if any one of those rotations ceased in a complete, absolute stop, we would feel it like a stick between the spokes of a bicycle.
I go into detail with these because I think we can draw a parallel between these examples and our own lives. Just like the rotation of the earth, we take for granted the constants in our lives and quickly notice the resistance. When everything is going well, we think everything is moving and progressing, and we don’t pay too much attention to it. But as soon as we feel resistance, we head to the battlements, or flee from the cause. It goes without saying that not all resistance is beneficial to our growth and progress. In fact, some resistance is in direct contention. However, I think we miss many opportunities offered by the resistance we feel.
For example, this very morning I was contacted by a school district asking me if I wanted to substitute teach. They were in dire need of multiple subs that day. I asked what grade level I would be teaching, and they replied, “kindergarten.” I immediately felt the resistance. I did not want to teach students that young. Ideally, I’d be teaching high-school students. I only had a half hour to get ready. I would be entirely unprepared with supplementary teaching materials. I never taught anyone younger than 3rd grade before. I was utterly terrified by my lack of time to prepare, my inadequacies, and the uncertainties of it. As you could probably guess, I turned down the job. I felt relief that the resistance was gone, but I felt a sense of shame and guilt that I’d missed an opportunity, that I backed down out of fear.
Resistance can become an obstacle in our lives, but it can also give us potential to grow, or inform us of alternative opportunities. It can also indicate we might need to slow down. The struggles we face are in many ways like the g’s we feel when accelerating or decelerating. In other words, g’s are indicative of motion in our lives. Our struggles can tell us to accelerate, choosing to face the discomfort and uncertainties of the g’s we feel, and break through to the other side. Or our struggles can tell us to decelerate, slowing down so we can discover a different direction. In short, the resistance we feel can tell us to pick up the pace or slow down, to move or to stop. But one thing is for certain, you can’t have movement or change in direction without some form of acceleration, deceleration, or g forces. Ask any fighter pilot, you can’t go from a stop to breaking the sound barrier, or immediately change direction in an aircraft without experiencing some g’s. And if you tried to go from one direction to the opposite in an instant, you’d experience g’s so powerful you’d end up like Santa Claus.
There’s no doubt I missed an opportunity to grow by declining to substitute. I ultimately can’t know if me teaching students that young would turn out to be a disaster or not. What I do know is I didn’t take the risk to find out for myself. Instead of seeing what was on the other side of the resistance, I chose to remove it altogether.
It is so easy to allow resistance to uproot our lives, our relationship with God and others, and our circumstances. But if we could stop viewing resistance as this horrible thing we have to get away from at all costs, perhaps we could see the opportunities or wisdom we could gain from it.
It might be beneficial to examine the level of resistance in our lives. We could very well be moving fast in one direction, and God might want us to head in another. We might even be oblivious of that, saturated in the complacency afforded by our current direction. And if God is calling us to or away from something, we probably want to obey, but we could be trying to avoid the resistance that change in direction requires.
Whatever our individual circumstances may be, it is important to understand and keep in mind that not all resistance is bad, and not all resistance is permanent. And not all comfort is bad! Even if we grow comfortable in our current direction, it does not guarantee we are doing something wrong. What we truly need to examine is what we pursue. Are we trying to stay in comfort one-hundred percent of the time? Are we backing down from opportunity because of resistance? Are we turning our back on God and others because we experience g’s? Or are we fighting through the hard times to experience what is on the other side?
And remember, just like the g’s I felt on the plane ride, the resistance we feel is temporary. Whether accelerating, decelerating, or changing direction, the resistance will end, and we’ll break through to the other side. Grab your barf bags, folks, and get ready to experience some g’s.