Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Center of Gravity

This morning as I was biking to work, I was aware more than usual of a basic law of physics. If I'm trying to get speed on my bike, the easiest way to do it is to position my body in such a way that my center of gravity is just above my hips. Then when I peddle, it's much easier to exert force with my legs. When my center of gravity is elsewhere, say, when I'm sitting upright and maybe even leaning back a bit, I get completely exhausted very quickly if I try to peddle at the same speeds I can peddle when my center of gravity is more forward, and more directly above my hips. When my center of gravity is in the right place, I'm able to go much faster and be less tired.

This principle works in other physical disciplines as well. Back when I was a student at the University of Minnesota, because I had written a number of letters to newspapers and spoken in public forums in support of gay rights, I periodically received phone threats and hate mail. I even received some calls threatening physical violence, so I enrolled in a martial arts/self-defense course for a time in order to be able to protect myself physically if necessary. If there was one thing I learned from these classes, it was that when defending yourself the main thing you need to pay attention to is where your center of gravity is. If you stay centered, it is much harder for an opponent to knock you off balance, and much easier for you to deliver disabling blows to your opponent that will prevent them from harming you and enable you to escape.

Where your center of gravity is located is key. You always have a center of gravity, but the closer it is to your physical center, the more balanced you will be. Force exerted from your center of gravity will always be more efficient. Basic physics.

The same principle applies spiritually. We all have a spiritual center of gravity. When our spiritual center of gravity is located in our "outward observances," in our "works," in the things we do, we will be spiritually out of balance. We become spiritually and emotionally exhausted focusing on all the stuff we are supposed to do in order appear righteous to others.

If, on the other hand, our spiritual center of gravity is inward, in the center, the outward observances flow more naturally. They become a reflection of our inward faith, hope, and, most of all, our love. For love is the spiritual center of all things. If our center of gravity is there, in the heart of love, it is harder for others to knock us off balance. When the things we do proceed from that spiritual center of love, they become easy to do, they become a joy, rather than that exhausting "one more thing" on our long list of things we're doing to try to impress God or impress our fellow human beings.

The past week has been trying for me. And there have been moments when I have just ached inside, when I have felt like I couldn't do one more thing, take one more step, say or write one more word. I was very aware of how weak and imperfect and flawed I am. I was grateful for Church on Sunday. I was aware of the presence of the Spirit, encouraging me to just be still, be quiet, wait. If I had no energy left, it was OK to just be still, to acknowledge that I am me and God is God.

Those moments of weakness are good. They are painful! I was hurting! But they help remind us of our utter dependence -- if we let them. The pain helps us if we let it remind us where our ultimate spiritual center is -- in God. To recognize that we are not self-reliant in any ultimate sense is to find our center, to know who and what we are. It is to know that we are children of God.

Fortunately, like all things good and bad, the pain eventually ends. I woke up this morning from a peaceful, reassuring dream (that maybe I will blog about later). After I had written it down, and knelt in prayer, I found not necessarily that I had found my center, but that my center had found me, and life is very, very good. I am grateful. And grateful for what I have learned, once again, about who and what I am and how to get home.

1 comment:

Bravone said...

"The pain helps us if we let it remind us where our ultimate spiritual center is -- in God."

Wow, I really need this today. I am at a very low point, and being reminded of this is so helpful. Thanks John.