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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Supernova of Grace

Have you ever been in one of those perplexing moments in life where you truly believe you've tried everything humanly possible to change a particular situation and it still feels like you are just banging your head up against a wall? It seems like our current political climate might be a good candidate for this description, although I was aiming at something a little more personal...

That long-sought after job has not come your way...
An addiction is dominating your life...
Maybe you are dealing with a disease that is beyond your control...
Or a relationship gone awry...
Or a child outside of the faith...
Or the stench of a foul past that persists...
Or...fill in the blank____________

Just about everyone I've ever admired has been going through this kind of stuff or has had the veritable stuffing beat out of them a time or two. If you're one of those for whom the head-banging-bell tolls, then my heart goes out to you today. And if I may, offer a bit of cosmic insight on grace and change and being totally sans control....

My son and I were watching the Science Channel on a particular topic that is as addictive to me as hot-buttered popcorn:  Astronomy and the origins of the universe. Ever since I was a kid, I've enjoyed cosmology (NOT to be confused with cosmetology) and I find that there is enough raw material here to keep my mind occupied for at least another 40 years. Last night's episode was no less thrilling on "The Wonders of the Universe". The focus was, basically: how stars and planets came to be formed out of space dust.

I've always just imagined that a massive amount of swirling gases like the "Pillars of Creation Nebula",  pictured above, just reach a certain 'ripeness' and then, randomly and without warning, poof! (or...twinkle!), a star is born.  Well, that's not exactly how the universe works. In fact, what I'm discovering is that the physical universe behaves a whole lot like the spiritual universe. Allow me to explain.

The dust sits around out there, sort of, well, nebulously!  (How profound).  It's very thin and spread out. In fact, it takes a whole lot of space dust and gas to produce a teeny, tiny, yet dense space rock. But leaving quantity aside for a moment, space dust requires an outside action to change it from gas to rock. And to produce a star, which is not a rock, but a massive amount of condensed hydrogen that will produce constant thermonuclear fusion for about a billion years or so, something really extraordinary must act upon it. So what is that something?  And this is what blew me away.  A supernova!  When a giant star dies, it goes out with this amazing, uproarious surge of power; one of the most powerful things in the known universe. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short interval a supernova can radiate as much energy as our sun is expected to emit over its entire life span! Wow. And this is the force that is acting upon that great horn of space gas that you see above.

The best visual on the show last night was a computer-generated picture of the supernova's shock wave overcoming the nebula and, voila! :  these little majestic twinkles lit up like fireflies.

And just how is this like the spiritual life, you ask? Well, to be completely frank with you, we are dust. We are powerless over just about every thing and have an extremely small amount of control over the things that happen to us on a daily basis.  Death, divorce, relationships, addictions, aging, disease and what that delightful, horticultural thing my neighbor is doing in his yard : most of these things are forces that pull us this way and that and make us swirl. But we are the stuff that stars are made from, so to speak! The trouble is, we don't make ourselves.  We require a Force, something greater than ourselves, acting upon us, to bring about change. I'll call this force God's grace and for us to change from gas or dust into star material, we will require a huge amount of this grace. So that's where the supernova of grace comes in. When we reach the realization of our powerlessness we cease fighting everyone and everything. We place ourselves in a position to be acted upon. For the sake of argument, let's call this willingness.  Being willing to have God mold me and bend me and make me into the exact essence of existence that I am to be, is, in fact, a very important action. I don't know about you, but for me, this is no small task, because I spend most of my waking hours doing, planning, focusing and fixating on MY plan, not on being still and clay-like.

So just for today, think of yourself as gas. Perhaps if you've been to Carolyna's Mexican Restaurant, this will be easier for some than others. And when you deal with the trifling blows of life, remember it is God who can act for you when you are all out of your own plans and options. (Recovered alcoholics understand this concept mui bueno).

He will send a supernova of grace that will transform you more and more into His likeness.

Baby, He's gonna make you a star!

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