If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.
The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.
Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.
I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!
Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.
I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.
Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.
But it can be transformed.
As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”
It’s a truism that it’s easier to destroy than to create.
I saw this in action recently in my own neighbourhood.
A two-storey house had been damaged internally by fire, although it looked salvageable from the outside. Nonetheless, the owners and insurers agreed that it should be demolished and a new house built in its stead.
I imagine the original house had taken months to build. It probably involved scores of people in its construction: contractors, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, electricians, plumbers, and the like.
But it only took one man with one large backhoe a few hours to raze that building to the ground.
It was shocking how quickly the structure was destroyed. What could have lasted for decades was levelled in the space of a morning.
A cautionary tale, don’t you think?
If we’re not careful, we can see the same thing happen in our own lives.
Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?
Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.
Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.
I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.
Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.
Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.
Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.
All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.
This got me thinking:
Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?
Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?
If you’re a pilot, there are a lot of things to worry about up in the skies.
Stalling your aircraft is one of them.
If your plane no longer has enough lift to keep you flying, it will falter and enter an aerodynamic stall. You need to take corrective action, and fast.
So how does a pilot get out of a stall?
Nose down, full throttle.
This means the pilot must push the nose of the plane downward and give the engines full power.
To a layperson, this course of action seems scary and counter-intuitive. Surely the last thing a pilot should be doing when they’re in trouble is aiming the plane toward the ground at full speed?
It may seem nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way to get out of a stall. Going nose down, full throttle will give the plane the needed airspeed to regain lift and get out of the stall. Then, the pilot can resume level flight and continue on the desired flight path.
In life, too, sometimes we need to do something that scares us a little in order to get out of trouble.
Like when we sin or make a mistake that we know would displease God.
Many of us learned as youngsters that raw cookie dough can taste even better than baked cookies. As adults, some of us will sneak a spoonful or two of cookie dough when we’re baking, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For some of us, however, our addiction to raw cookie dough is rather more extensive. We have a particular problem resisting those tubes of uncooked cookie dough that you can buy in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores.
When we were kids, our Mom would buy a tube of dough and put it in the fridge, but it would mysteriously disappear before she had a chance to bake it.
As adults, our addiction to this surreptitious habit continued. We’d sometimes eat an entire tube of dough without baking a single cookie for our families.
Last summer, the Pillsbury company finally acknowledged what many of us have known for decades: their raw cookie dough tastes darn good, and people can’t resist it. So they’ve developed a formula that is safe to eat raw.
Pillsbury Cookie Dough tubes now state on the label: “Eat or Bake.”
Fellow cookie dough eaters: our secret is finally out!
And yes, I’m admitting that I’ve been a surreptitious cookie dough eater, too. There, I’ve said it.
Frankly, it’s a relief to have it out in the open. It feels liberating to finally admit my secret “sin.”
Gardeners may not realize it, but they’re a bit like soldiers in wartime. Their enemies aren’t people, of course, but an even more insidious foe:
Weeds infiltrate our gardens like enemy invaders: dandelions, nettles, thistles, couch grass and garlic mustard, to name a few. They may seem innocent enough when there are only a few of them, but make no mistake: their ultimate aim is to take over and occupy your territory.
One vanguard weed may sneak in and settle, and you think nothing of it. If you’re not vigilant, though, that lone plant will soon multiply into an overwhelming host.
Or you pull up a dandelion and think that’s the end of it, but unless you’ve been very thorough, part of the taproot remains deep in the soil. The weed will come up again long after you thought you’ve eradicated it.
The seeds of weeds may stay in the soil of your garden and remain viable for years. They lie in wait like sleeper agents, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to spring up and attack.
The mission of weeds is simple but deadly: to compete with other plants for light, water and nutrients and crowd them out so they die. They’re dastardly adversaries, often needing less sunlight and water than other plants to survive.
And the worst part of it is that they’re very hard to kill.
I received an alarming notice in my mailbox from my neighbourhood association recently.
It informed me that there was an infestation of “dog-strangling vine” in the area. Dog-strangling vine is an unwanted, invasive plant that can choke out native species. The leaflet told me what steps to take if I saw this plant in my yard, and who to report its presence to.
Inexplicably missing from the notice, however, was the answer to a crucial question:
Will the dog-strangling vine actually strangle my dog?
I’ve conducted some research on this vital issue for readers of The Faith Cafe and can assure you that this crafty vine likely won’t strangle your canine. Unless, of course, he sits next to the vine and keeps perfectly still for several weeks. But if your dog isn’t in the habit of sitting motionless next to murderous flora, he’s probably safe from this vicious plant.
I’m being facetious, of course, but perhaps there’s a lesson here for us when it comes to sin:
If we just sit there and take no action to avoid the temptation, we’ll get into trouble.
Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ve all had to learn some new phrases recently. We’re now painfully familiar with terms like COVID-19, “social distancing,” “self-isolation,” and “flatten the curve.”
Social distancing is perhaps the most wrenching new practice many of us have had to adopt. After all, humans are a social species. It’s unnatural for us to avoid contact with other people, and to keep 2 meters away from those we do encounter.
It’s extremely important that we do so right now, but still….it sort of hurts, doesn’t it?
If you had guests coming over during the holidays, did you panic because your house was a bit of a mess? Did you try to make your place look neater by hurriedly scooping up a bunch of out-of-place objects from around the house and hurling them onto a bed, then hiding them under a comforter or blanket?
I’m not saying I’ve ever done anything like this, of course. I’ve just heard of other people who have.