A Universe of Grace
I’ve been reading a lot about space lately.
Yes, I know I’m not a ten-year-old boy, but I’m working on a sci-fi book, and the research has been fascinating.
Did you know that sometimes black holes disappear? They can suck in a bunch of matter and then wink out of existence. So everything you were taught in school about how matter can’t cease to exist isn’t always strictly true.
Did you know that even though the sun’s burning is the source of the heat in our solar system, it’s actually hotter a few hundred miles away than it is on the surface of the sun? So much for the second law of thermodynamics.
Did you know that we’ve measure satellites outside of Earth’s gravitational pull actually speed up for no reason? It breaks all the laws of physics, and no one knows why.
In physics, you’re only supposed to call something a law if it’s true in all times and circumstances, but the more we learn, the more we see that all of our “laws” get broken sometime.
That’s because we don’t live in a universe of laws. We live in a universe of mysteries.
Can I be honest with you? Sometimes I worry about the things I write and teach. I try to observe the patterns I see around me in life and absorb the principles they teach. I try to write them as clearly and concisely as possible to encourage others to live the full, happy life they crave. But every time I put a principle into words, I worry that someone will turn it into a law.
There’s a huge difference between a principle and a law. A principle is what we hold to be true, a belief about the world which guides our actions. A law is a binding rule which carries consequences for those who don’t follow it.
It’s a good principle to exercise every day. Experience tells us that people who do are healthier than people who don’t. But if I take that principle and turn it into a law, then skipping days of exercise means not being a healthy person. My failure to follow the principle means that I am a failure. So if skipping a few days means I’m already unhealthy, why bother at all? Or worse, I push myself to never, ever skip, even if it means neglecting my work or my family or my body’s other needs.
Even the best of principles can enslave us if we turn them into laws.
We don’t live in a universe of laws. We live in a universe of grace.
Sometimes things go wrong. A universe of laws would tell us that means we screwed up, that we deserve what we got. If we had done things right, we would have gotten the right results.
A universe of grace tells us that there is no such thing as “deserve.” Sometimes we do everything right and things still go wrong. And sometimes, we do nothing right at all and we are still given unimaginable beauty.
Sometimes the satellite speeds up for no reason.
There are guidelines in this universe of mystery and grace, endless fascinating patterns. Learning from them is what enables us to walk in wisdom, to be healthier and happier. But the biggest pattern of all is the constant presence of the unexpected, the unexplained, and the unavoidable. Admitting that we’re too small to control all outcomes is the beginning of freedom.
We don’t live in a universe of guarantees. We live in a universe of possibilities.
And what a terrifyingly wonderful place it is.
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