Let me tell you about myself in an attempt for you to know me better. In an attempt to pull back the curtains and look inside my being to know a bit more about who I am.
To begin, I will tell the story of the atom. The atom is the foundation of all pertinent matter in this universe of ours (to say nothing of nothingness and dark matter). Suffice it to say, nothing physically present in space exists without them. Atoms unite to form molecules, molecules unite to form compounds and all things are thus held together. Since Grecian times humans have known (or at least, posited to that end) atoms to exist and in our estimation of them our knowledge has grown from thinking them to be small, hard ball bearings to the infinitesimally complicated little universes we now know them to be. They are physically present yet displaying metaphysical tendencies. They are immutable and unsquishable; they are bound by immense attractions and charges; their predilection to holding fast to one another can hardly be severed and given the right circumstances, they contain within their minute bodies potential energy capable of leveling the earth. And yet, there they are floating in your bloodstream, composing the very grey matter of your brain and linking arms to form the layered, spherical substrate you walk on – the Earth.
They are nothing short of miraculous.
And it doesn’t stop there. Bear with me, because this is important. Atoms are made of three things, in general: protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons, like the nucleus of a cell, are tightly bound together in the center of the atom and give it its mass. The proton is charged positively, the neutron is neutrally charged and to balance it out is the negatively charged electron cloud. So you’ve got a weighty center being orbited by a hyperactive cloud of electrons. But here’s the thing: scale.
The scale of the atom is unbelievably vast.
Atoms are already small. Like, millions fitting together on the head of a pin small. And yet, within themselves they are even smaller. The nucleus is 2,000 times heavier than the electrons surrounding it (think 2,000 elephants versus 1 elephant), yet that same tiny, heavy nucleus is 100,000 times smaller than the electrons surrounding it.
To put this in perspective, it’s as if the nucleus of an atom is the sun of our solar system and the electrons buzz around a spherical path on the outskirts beyond Pluto – but that sun is 2,000 less massive than Pluto! Can you imagine?
A tiny sphere maybe a 1/3 mile around you could walk in 6 minutes spinning in the middle of a solar system in which there is nothing but emptiness for decades and decades until you come to a thin, minute screen of negatively-charged, hyper-fast buzzing force way out on the edges.
All of that space and nothingness exists right now in every atom composing your existence. Every atom, to last trillion billionth in your very eyeball as you read, is full of empty space more vast than the space in our very solar system.
Selah. (That’s a Hebraic word for “take a breath, praise God, pause.”)
So that’s where I come in. What do I have to do with an atom? Who am I and what is an atom to me?
It’s Jesus Christ in me that I mean to talk about, or rather, my faith in the Way of Jesus, the carpenter-Jew from Nazareth who claimed to be the Son of God and whom the disciples and early church claimed rose from the dead, many even claiming to have seen it with their own eyes.
I have, by the power of the very breath of God, put my faith in the ridiculous claims of this Christ. I have staked my eternal soul on them in fact, so much so that my identity has been fundamentally changed.
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, ” to quote Paul of Tarsus.
What this means for me and for the atom is simply this: my identity in Christ is my nucleus. It is my mass and weight, my very substance and stabilizing force. Who I am now is because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. I am forgiven of my sinful condition, I am adopted into God’s family, I am no longer at enmity with God, my Father. My heart no longer beats for my own life but for the lives of those around me, my soul yearns for the liberation of the oppressed, for mercy to be shown to the merciless and the penniless and the loveless and my being longs to extoll the goodness and joyfulness I have found in Christ to all living creatures, human and otherwise, in every ghetto, every city.
My identity is comprised of these weighty, heavenly bodies: protons and neutrons tightly bound together in my center.
This means that all other identities, then, float busily around and above my core, like that electron cloud spinning out past all that empty space. My sexual preferences, my talents, my desires, my fears, my future hopes, my job, my familial roles – anything else that might “define” me is, necessarily, insignificant when compared to my core. In fact, it is all able to be lost to me. It is dead in comparison to my core. I have died and am an altogether new thing in Christ.
But hear, insignificant does not mean meaningless. Remember it is the electron cloud which allows the atom to bond to other atoms. The electrons, in equal number to the weighty protons within, balance out the atom and allow it to connect to others. And yet the electrons can only connect because they are counterbalanced by the core of positivity, which holds it all together in proper tension!
What a metaphor!
My center has given my identity a new job to do. Whereas once my identity was self-focused, concerned with purely the exultation and satisfaction of my identities, my wants and desires, it is no longer. My purpose has changed. My charge has changed. My core is Christ.
Oh my soul, praise Him.