There is an invisible force at work upon us all.
My Dear One,
Put on your thinking cap. Pop quiz:
If you could take two objects, let’s say two marbles, into outer space, hold them exactly five inches apart, and push them off into infinity at exactly the same time in precisely parallel paths to one another, and …
if you could be assured that they would never collide with anything else or fall into the orbit of any planet, sun or black hole that might affect their paths (which is impossible, but theoretically speaking let’s go with it) …
would those two marbles forever remain exactly parallel, five inches apart or would they, at some point, collide?
Have an answer? Hold onto that for a moment. We’ll come back to it.
I once broke a girl’s arm. It wasn’t on purpose … except that it kind of was. The collision, that is, not that her arm was broken. Let me explain:
It was fifth grade. There was a boy in our class with cerebral palsy. But we didn’t know that term. We just called him crippled. He wore braces on his legs and had slurred speech that was difficult to understand. The kids were generally kind to him, though not always, and we tried to include him as much as we could.
We were at recess playing kickball. It was close to the end of our time and the score was even, as I recall. It was this boy’s turn to kick. I was on the opposing team, the one “pitching,” that is rolling the ball to him. I tried to roll it to him as gently as I could. He missed a couple of times. I remember hoping, for his sake, that he would connect. I think every other kid playing, on both sides, was hoping the same. I rolled the ball as gently as I could and he did it, he kicked it with his foot. With glee on his face, he took off running, as he could, to first base. I let the ball roll past me towards the girl playing second base. I knew this girl well. We both had divorced parents and, thanks to a really wonderful school counselor, there was a support group for kids like us that met occasionally. We had a common bond. I liked her.
She saw the ball rolling towards her and she ran to pick it up. It was the instinct of the game. I knew she meant business, tat she was going to get this boy out. My heart hurt. I had a decision to make and, without thinking it through, moved into action. I ran towards her.
Will those two marbles ever collide? If you said no, I completely understand why. They are, after all, traveling exactly parallel to one another. With no outside forces, there is nothing to cause them to cross paths … except for one thing: gravity. Not the gravity of any outside force, mind you, but the gravity and attractions of the marbles themselves.
Newton’s theory of gravity, from the Latin gravitas, or weight, posits that everything in the universe is attracted to one another. The more mass objects have and the closer they are to one another, the stronger the gravitational pull between them, the more “weight” they have.
This is true not only in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense as well. The closer we allow ourselves to become to someone, the more weight they hold for us, the stronger the attraction. Science and faith are not opposing ways of seeing reality. They speak to us of the same reality, the reality of God, but in two different languages, both of which are grasping for words and concepts to speak of the full truth and beauty of what is real.
Even Newton’s theory is just a theory. Einstein came along and suggested another explanation for gravity altogether in his theory of general relativity. And neither theory explains it all. What pulls on us is still a mystery, just as love can be a mysterious, unexplainable force. What we do know is this, we are inescapably attracted to one another and to every other thing in the known universe. There is a constant pull, towards one another, towards a center, while at the same time the universe expands.
There is another constant pull I know, the pull within my heart towards the heart of God. And, I find, the more I give in to this force, the more “weight” I put upon that relationship, the more gravitas I allow it, the more clearly I realize God is the very center of my life and how massive that presence actually is. I don’t want to resist. I want to give in. I want to be drawn in, just as The Great Commandment says we should as we submit to loving God with all we are: Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength. Drawn ever together.
Just as those two marbles will be. For even if nothing else affects them, they will over time affect one another. Their own small gravitational forces will exert upon one another. It may take some real distance and time for it to happen, but eventually they will meet, they will gently kiss, almost imperceptibly at first, so softly that they will then journey on together forever.
All things are on a course to converge.
The deep mystic and wisdom seeker, Thomas Merton, observed this as he once wrote:
“The Self is not its own center and does not orbit around itself; it is centered on God, the one center of all, which is ‘everywhere and nowhere.’ In whom all are encountered, from whom all proceed. Thus from the very start, this consciousness is disposed to encounter ‘the other’ with whom it is already united anyway ‘in God.’” (Zen and the Birds of Appetite, p. 24)
God is the central force of all. It is God who sets us in motion and it is around God we are always in orbit, being drawn ever closer towards God and towards one another. This is the very nature of reality. Another name we give it is LOVE.
The girl picked up the ball and planted her feet, reared back and prepared to throw the ball at the boy, to hit him before he reached first base, to get him out. Would she have missed? Would she have hit him and knocked him down? Would he have gotten hurt? We will never know. Because before she was able to release the ball, I crashed into her. I didn’t hit her, I must say. I didn’t push her. I just kind of ran into her and, as our bodies bounced off one another, she fell down hard. She reached out to break her fall on the asphalt below us … and her arm broke.
We collided out of my impulse towards LOVE, though with some unintended consequences and a lesson I continue to try to learn. I didn’t want to see the boy get out. I was showing love to him. But the collision was stronger than I realized it would be. In my effort to love one, I hurt another. This is a hard lesson to learn for those of us who are always being drawn together. Not every encounter is a gentle one. So be as gentle as you are able. Sometimes things take time to come together. But they inevitably will. It is in the very fabric of the nature of the universe. We are drawn towards a common center. It is the force of LOVE, that center we sometimes give the name God, who draws us in whether we are aware of that pull … or not.
It broke my heart that I broke her arm. I felt horrible. My mom helped me figure out what to do. I wrote the girl an apology letter and brought her flowers. The girl’s mom was impressed. When they understood my motive, all was forgiven. And the girl and I became closer than we had been before. Love flourishes when planted in the field of forgiveness. Another lesson it takes time to learn.
Do you feel distant from God? Relax. God’s pull upon your life is the strongest, surest force in the universe. It is relentless. It is an attraction like no other. Allow yourself to fall into the orbit of God and know that you will be pulled in more and more. Reconciliation is the direction of all that exists. It is the Omega Point of history.
Do you feel distant from someone you wish to love? Relax. Allow for space and time to do their good work. Trust that all things will one day be reconciled, if not by our own forces in this lifetime then by the force of God in the next. By grace each of us have a common destination. It is there that you will be reconciled, of and in God’s great LOVE.
Do you worry you might never meet someone you are supposed to meet? That there is someone “out there” you may never encounter because you are traveling parallel to one another? Relax. It will happen. You will meet, so long as you do not pull away and resist. And there is a long journey still ahead, an infinity into which you can travel together.
And trust that sometimes the straightest, quickest route towards the place we want to be is simply to stop resisting the pull, to give in, with all we are, to the inexorable gravity of God.
following The Way,
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