I am grateful for gravity. It keeps all the things in place on my desk so I don’t have to go plucking them out of the air like the astronauts on the space station. This is convenient. A great design.
The earth’s gravity is my friend for other reasons. It pulls me with a very specific force (9.8 meters/sec 2) directly toward the center of the earth. It holds me here. And a very physical-mathematical hold it is, that lasso around my center of gravity that pulls me directly downward.
But gravity shows no mercy. If I tip, ever so much, lean ever so slightly, it seizes its advantage and pulls me that way. If I hoist something overhead that’s a bit more than I can manage, it causes me to sway backward accentuating the pull. Centered and strong at the core is the only safe place. The place of balance, favoring neither right nor left, front nor back, is the one that holds us steady and upright.
Wouldn’t you know that right there, standing with torso erect, abdominals drawn in, shoulders and hips squared right and left, the force of gravity and I are working together. In fact, it insists I stay that way. What did Einstein suppose? “An object at rest tends to stay at rest.” Sometimes, I wonder how motion happens at all.
But most of us these days have pretty poor posture. Have you noticed how many people are hunched over out there? Either bent over by the weight they bear, physically or emotionally, or leaning to one side or the other, courtesy of children, politics, or the winds of the day that are blowing their way. I am grateful for the words of James when I picture our predicament:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. ~ James 1:2-8
Move, we must. But leaning sets us up for a fall. Gravity makes sure of this. Getting our balance requires dedicated attention to all sides of ourselves: right and left, front and back, in and out. The parts we can see and those we can’t. Sometimes it requires a friend to set us upright or put us back on track. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of comparing. Isn’t it cool that God gave us two of most of our body parts so we can compare them and attend to bringing things level?
It just takes some tuning in to how we feel. For me that means, lifting with both hands, then with each one separately to compare. Jumping from both feet, then hopping on one, then the other. The body tells me – it’s very honest – which side needs more attention. If I listen well, I comply.
Yep, motion is formational for me just as gravity has been formational for our earth. I just have to watch the deep bending and the over-extending. Bending over backwards or crouching in hiding, neither is much good to this earthly mission. But moving in perfect balance, that seems more like God’s way. He just gave us gravity so we’d know when we were a little off center.
And to keep the coffee in my cup and the cup on my desk. God’s full of great ideas!
“faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” ~ James 2: 17
It’s the age old debate. Which is more real, more right, more likely to save us: faith or deeds? Well, Christians believe it is Christ who saves us. And today He looks very much to me like a baton. You know. The kind that baton twirlers twist and turn and throw up in the air, spinning a million miles per second? I remember having one of those as a child and trying to spin it that way. Except I didn’t know how, so I tried to twist it back and forth really fast. To give the illusion it was spinning round and round. Inevitably it clattered to the ground.
That baton had rubber tips at each end (thank goodness) and I picture one of those tips as belief and one as act. They are connected firmly by the metal rod between. Inseparable from each other. Move one and the other moves. In the same direction, keeping exactly the same distance.
I think I have been confused about believing. Believing today seems to mean gathering evidence to support your case. “I am a believer” means I am investigating how true something is. Heaping more and more support onto the pile. Tipping the balance toward what seems to be true.
But when is the time to act on that belief? How much evidence do you need? How many facts? How sure do you need to be? For some of us, that can be a very long wait. We procrastinate because we can’t be sure. We don’t act. Or our on-going investigation becomes our action or excuse for further action.
Yesterday I called myself to task on this. I was dragging my feet on submitting a proposal. Evidence gathering. Phone calling. Thinking. Penciling in. Drawing flow charts. Making notes. Trying to sketch out all the possibilities, so I could get that proposal just right. Then, that very authoritative voice in my head asked, “Do you believe yourself?”
Did I believe what I was proposing? Did I believe, fully believe, that I could do what I said I could do? That what I said I could provide, I could provide? That the outcome I proposed, given the application of my program, would really come to pass? Did I believe myself?
This hesitation that I had named lack of confidence or procrastination or perfectionism was none of these. I lacked belief. Because when you fully believe, you don’t hesitate to act. In fact, in the moment you fully believe, you are already in action. You’re moving. Believing doesn’t make it true or effective, it enacts it. And I suspect these are not cause and effect. It is not believe first, then act. They are one motion. One continuous motion. Like the twirl of the baton.
I love the scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc where Harrison Ford waivers at the edge of the chasm and then realizes that he must believe that a way across will appear when he steps off the ledge. And it does. The moment of complete belief, do or die faith, absent of all doubt, is simultaneous with the way forward appearing. He wouldn’t have seen it had he not stepped out.
So, whatever I am not doing, not acting on, is really a matter of trust. In the matter of God’s will, if I am completely trusting, I will be completely obedient. In perfect step. If I am out of step, faltering, or shuffling my feet, I need to look at that question: Do I believe myself when I say, “I believe God put me up to this.”
Not the success of my proposal but the act of submission. Who’s idea was this? If it was His, and I believe, then I act. All at once. And this turns round and round. The second I fully believe, I AM able. I AM capable. I AM acting.
When Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” He was proving existence.
I’ll go him one better. I think, therefore I am His. That’s the power to turn that baton. Now, getting into that smooth effortless rhythm. That’s the trick.
“Do or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” ~ James 1:5-6
Who knew Yoda was channeling James?
Wisdom is there for the asking. But, when you ask…believe. Ah, there’s the rub. Doubt. You know, doubting yourself. Very aware that you cannot do. And that sets us doubting the One who never “tries” – just does. What He says, goes. What He speaks, is.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were simple? Whatever occurred to me that needs doing, just do it. (Like the Nike ads). I’m faced with several dilemma’s here:
- there’s so much that needs doing
- there’s so little I can do about much of what needs doing
- who am I to say what needs doing?
- am I meant to be the one doing it?
It’s a dilemma for me, for sure. When I know about things that ought to be better, I wanna do, but should I? I pick up the morning paper and read about all the things wrong in the world. Hunger and poverty, war and injustice, murders and crime, lying and cheating and political spin…it’s a regular 10 commandment-breaking heyday out there. I wanna do something about everything. It’s reflexive. Some might say…kinesthetic.
But then, I don’t really know what to do. Or perhaps I’m not meant to do. If I can make a difference, should I? If I can do something but my doing it would make little to no difference, should I? Really, my potential impact shouldn’t be the deciding factor. My awareness shouldn’t really be either – though I can’t act on something I don’t know about. It all comes back to that doggone discernment. Resting in the “or.” Do or do not. Wait, and see what God tells you before you fly off the handle – again.
This is a good reminder to me today, as I send my high schooler back to school. There are so many hardships out there, and I’ll hear about plenty of them when she comes home. Most – a decreasing number actually – are not mine to manage. I’m her sounding board, her scratching post and yes, sometimes her punching bag. My blood does boil and my muscles tense when I hear what happens out there in the world, especially when it happens to someone I love. But I need to spend more time in the “or.”
I believe I’ll start now, giving the ‘or’ to God – whatever might come. Perhaps by the end of the school day I’ll have quieted enough to hear peace in the which things I must do and those which I must not do. Trying is way too hard.
Holding on to those words…
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27
Because the moment they were spoken, they were so, they are so, they will ever be so. That is the mystery of faith. Do not doubt, but believe.