Fledgling Physics

With all due respect to their brilliance, I think the mappers of the human genome missed something. They failed to find the gene for understanding Physics. As a bio major and chemistry minor, I was required to take two semesters of general physics. Maybe the professors conspired against all people who thought they understood science and forced them to jump through the Physics Hoop to learn humility. I’m not sure what they were thinking; all I know is that none of it made sense to me. Relativity, time and space, convex and concave…it all sounded like the Muppet’s mom to me, wah wah wah wah wah. About the only thing I can distinctly remember and actually apply to my life is the 3rd grade concept of potential and kinetic energy. Potential energy is the stored energy of position, while kinetic energy is the energy of an object in motion. Think of a child on top of a slide, poised to catapult himself down, and you’ve got potential energy. Think said child flailing down the slide, burning his little skin on the oven-hot slide, and you’ve got kinetic energy.

This is what I like to call fledgling physics, and it applies more than I could ever imagine now that I am a mother of three wild little boys.  Here is a scenario or two to further explain applied fledgling physics.

ty on roof

Scenario 1: “Oh, my, look at all the potential energy of Tyus crouching on the roof of the minivan; when will it be converted into the kinetic energy of jumping down and breaking a leg. This might then transfer the potential energy of me sitting on my tail drinking my morning coffee into the kinetic energy of me rushing to the hospital.”

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Scenario 2: “Well, would you listen to all of that potential energy stored up in Phin as he hangs over the rails of his crib, fighting against the concept of quiet time and naps. I will seek to ignore this state until it is converted into the state of a small Phinion flipping out of his crib in a sudden burst of kinetic energy onto the floor in freedom from the tyranny of the crib.”

I would like to thank all the brilliant physics professors upon whose shoulders I have stood to attain to this great position of in-house expert on fledgling physics. Word has it that the powers that be are considering tenuring me for my great application of Physics’ concepts into the otherwise inexplicable realm of a household of three boys. I’ll keep you posted on the ceremony and such. I’m sure you all want to be there for this momentous occasion.

Seriously though, as I was digging a bit deeper into more of the Greek words in the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church, the Lord did use the concept of potential and kinetic energy to deepen my worship and understanding of Him.

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In verses 18-20 Paul writes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”

Paul makes me roll my eyes sometimes. He writes sentences that last pages, uses big and fancy words, and seems to be a bit redundant at times. Yet, I don’t think Paul was like I was as a college student, using flowery, thesaurus-empowered language to fill up the remaining space to reach the 2-page minimum. Paul may be loquacious but he was the intentional, efficient type, not wasting his own time or anyone else’s on insignificant things.

As I dug deeper into the Greek words I realized that Paul used 4 different words for energy/strength/might in these verses. So why? What’s the difference? What was he trying to communicate to his friends?

When he was talking about the “surpassing greatness of His power,” he used the word dunamis, which means force, might, ability, energy, strength. His great, more-than-enough strength toward us. The preposition translated to there is eis, which conveys a motion towards or even into an object or person, a union, a penetration. His untiring, abounding strength is channeled toward, is directed at and even into us if there is room to receive it, place to keep it, a desire and need to use that strength. In a sense, it is like Potential Energy, power stored up, hidden there with Him, waiting, ready, about to burst out of a dam and into our hearts and lives. Energy resting.

Paul continues, “These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might,” using three different energy words. The word for working is energes, which means activity, exertion, influence, demonstration. It is power, dunamis, but power at work, power in motion, power accomplishing something, exerted towards an end. This working energy is more like Kinetic Energy, power taken from potential to action. His divine storehouses of power poured into, penetrating at and finally at work in and through us. Energy moving. 

I have been stalked with questions since yesterday. What would it actually look like to tap into the potential energy available to me in God? What works of mercy and justice and forgiveness and grace would He work and demonstrate through me if I were available and empty and needing and wanting His strength? What good works, what endeavors do I avoid or shy away from because I am afraid I won’t have the strength or might or ability to actually perform them?

For the sake of time, I won’t go into the other two words which are kratos and ischus. Suffice it to say, there is more going on in this seemingly-flowery sentence than meets the eye. That is so like God, to have such depth, such richness in a mere sentence. Glad there is enough in this book to last a lifetime of learning and relearning.

In the meanwhile I will continue my nearly Noble Prize winning study of fledgling physics in the home.

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