POINT TO PONDER

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Sometimes we think that the fastest way to get where we want to go, do what we want to do, or even be what we want to be is by a straight line. If you’ve lived long enough, you know how untrue that is. Ramon Schönborn from Germany came up with a neat way of showing why. Here it is, I hope it causes you to ponder your plans for the immediate future.

First, Ramon says, let’s get a few things out of the way: In real life, we can’t put a metal pole between the Earth and the Moon. The end of the pole near the Moon would be pulled toward the Moon by the Moon’s gravity, and the rest of it would be pulled back down to the Earth by the Earth’s gravity. The pole would be torn in half. Another problem with this plan. The Earth’s surface spins faster than the Moon goes around so the end that dangled down to the Earth would break off if you tried to connect it to the ground.

There’s one more problem: The Moon doesn’t always stay the same distance from Earth. Its orbit takes it closer and farther away. It’s not a big difference, but it’s enough that the bottom 50,000 km of your fire station pole would be squished against the Earth once a month.

But let’s ignore those problems! What if we had a magical pole that dangled from the Moon down to just above the Earth’s surface, expanding and contracting so it never quite touched the ground? How long would it take to slide down from the Moon? If you stood next to the end of the pole on the Moon, a problem would become clear right away, you’ll have to slide up the pole, and that’s not how sliding works. Instead of sliding, you’ll have to climb.

People can climb poles pretty fast. World-record pole climbers can climb at over a meter per second in championship competition. On the Moon, gravity is much weaker, so it will probably be easier to climb. If you climb up the pole far enough, Earth’s gravity will take over and start pulling you down. When you’re hanging onto the pole, there are three forces pulling on you: The Earth’s gravity pulling you toward Earth, the Moon’s gravity pulling you away from Earth, and centrifugal force from the swinging pole pulling you away from Earth. At first, the combination of the Moon’s gravity and centrifugal force are stronger, pulling you toward the Moon, but as you get closer to the Earth, Earth’s gravity takes over. (Are you dizzy yet trying to keep all this in mind?)

This is a great example of what we must go through and figure out as we plan any major move in life. Should I go or should I stay? The gravity of familiarity keeps pulling back to remain where we are, but the gravity of “what could be” is also tugging at us to go ahead and make the break. We see this happen when we go on a diet; think of changing jobs; making new relationships; dealing with old habits; etc.

But it’s also true in our spiritual life. If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, no doubt you are settled in your ways. Your daily devotions, going to church, reading your Bible, having your prayer time, etc., have by now become habitual at the same time, on the same day, for the same amount of time. But God did not rescue us from sin’s prison just to sit around on a luxury ride to heaven. Every day we pass by opportunities to serve Him more, but we may not like all the changes it will require in our daily or weekly regime.

So if and when we do decide to get out of our rut and try something different to honor our God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we make a mistake if we think we can draw a straight line between what we are doing now and what we want to do. Because once we start, just like Ramon’s illustration of trying to connect to the moon by a straight pole, the forces of gravity will take over. But don’t let that discourage you. Remember, you will never get stronger until you overcome your weaknesses. You may not get to where you want to be with God by a straight line, but getting there is the most important thing to keep in mind. Remember, the reward is not at this end of the pole, but at the other end after we finish our climb – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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