Having done my undergraduate work in chemistry I am always interested in science. Being a pastor I have an extreme interest in theology. Amazingly, I find these two seemingly unrelated fields cross paths frequently. This week I stumbled across Evisaging, a blog by Todd Wilson. He made a post regarding Christian leadership (found here)and its connection to the fission process in a nuclear reactor. I found his five points of comparision extremely interesting to think through.
If we were to look inside two different reactors — one that is subcritical and one that is supercritical — we’d see the following common elements:
- uranium fuel – the substance from which latent energy is transformed to active. No fuel, no transformation. Higher concentration and increased uniform distribution of fuel throughout the core enhances criticality. In our lives, the uranium fuel is analogous to God. The greater his presence throughout all aspects of our lives, the greater our impact for him. The capacity for transformation through him is more than we can imagine just as the total energy stored in a nuclear reactor is hard to grasp.
- neutrons – the catalyst for transformation by splitting uranium atoms and releasing huge quantifies of energy. More neutrons productively encountering the fuel equates to more fission. In our lives, the neutrons are analogous to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The greater our reliance on and submission to the working of the Spirit in our lives the greater our impact for God.
- impurity material – structural and other impurity materials that hinder the fission process by “distracting” neutrons from the fuel and limiting the effectiveness of neutrons in converting latent to active energy via the fuel. In our lives, impurities are the sin that so easily entangle, that limit the power of the Holy Spirit to work and catalyze change in our lives, and that limit our transformation to become more like Jesus. Our unrepented sin limits the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us for 100X impact.
- reflector material – materials that seek to keep neutrons actively in the core where it can interact with uranium. The reflector provides boundaries that help keep the neutrons concentrated where they are intended. In our lives, the reflector is like the Spiritual disciplines of Bible Study, Fasting, Prayer, and Devotion that keep us centered on God; disciplines that position us to join God in the calling and plans he has for us.
- control rod material – inserted and withdrawn from the reactor to control the neutron population and the rate of fission. The “safest” place for the control rods is fully inserted into the reactor. However, much like the one talent man who buried the talent, you simply can’t get a God-sized return on control rods that are fully inserted. Want to increase criticality, you MUST withdraw the control rods. In our lives, the control rods are analogous to our faith; to the risks we take in stepping out of the boat for Jesus. In the parable, its the risk the five talent leader takes for his master in earning five more.
In every nuclear reactor all five of these characteristics are present. The difference is the size and how these five characteristics function. If one doesn’t function as well as it should, or if there were a lot of impurities, then the amount energy created by the reactor decreases. If we as leaders are not utilizing these five principles in our lives then our effectiveness as leaders decreases, regardless of how many talents or how large our platform is.
This week while preparing for a sermon on the Lord’s Supper I had a revelation. Hidden within the practice of celebrating the supper Jesus himself initiated is a hedge against legalism. How great is that? Lest we think this is an empty ritual (which it is not) with only one purpose (remembrance) we find yet another level (of many, many levels) in this strange, yet profound practice.
There is something inherit in human nature that draws us towards legalism. Is it our desire to be able to fend and provide for ourselves? We want to be able to look at something and say, “I did that.” Whatever it is. Regardless if it is landscaping our yard, painting a picture or earning our salvation. Is it our desire to for uniformity? We like our mailboxes to match (if you live in suburbia), our kids to be wearing the same type of shoes as everyone else, and our churches to filled with the same cookie-cutter Christian with a Jesus fish on their car. Why we fall back to legalism is a mystery to me. Maybe because it is easier and less costly. It is less costly to me if my salvation is based on me, because I can do as much or as little as I want. Not only that, but it makes me feel good about myself. I can look at the checklist of what I need to do and, low and behold, I’m doing pretty good! I deserve a little break…
Not so if I can’t earn salvation. What do you do with a gift that has been given at such great cost, and yet is so absolutely free? If I take it then what? It demands a response. It doesn’t, God doesn’t ask for response, and yet when the gift of Jesus is given and recieved with a humble heart it does. Something happens with the heart that brings forth a response of gratitude, and that response is greater than any checklist I could come up with on my own. The response is nothing less than my life. And that is scary. I think we know that deep down in our souls, and maybe that is why we like legalism. It doesn’t require my whole being.
Everytime we go to the table to partake of the bread of which Jesus said, “This is my body,” and the wine of which he said, “This is my blood,” we are posititioned face to face with the reality that we are partaking of nothing less than our salvation. This salvation did not come by any of our own doing. It was all Jesus. It is his body that was torn. It was his blood that was shed and given as a new covenant of grace and forgiveness. Accepting the elements is a reminder that we don’t do anything but recieve. Salvation in Jesus is a way of life marked by understanding the reality of recieving over and over again what we could not perform for ourselves, but that which we can only recieve.
I just had a conversation with some one I admire greatly. This person lives their life with unmatched conviction and purpose. I often wonder what I would be able to accomplish if I lived with just a fraction of that passion. As we talked, I commented to him how much I admired this part of who he is. He responded to this by saying, “My focus has come from the threshing floor.”
It seems that out of the darkest moments of our life we gain the most clarity. The pain shrinks our vision, and brings focus to that which is central. What we may have thought was important falls out of focus, or out of the line of sight all together. All that is unimportant just seems to be stripped away. The ancillary issues of life fall like sandbags from the side of a hot air ballon. Now, it can get cliche at this point. “The cars, the house, the trips to Mexico, they just don’t matter any more.” And while that may be true, I wonder if those are the only things we hold to that are secondary in life. Is there a thing behind the thing that becomes more important after we have gone through dark times?
The easy answer is God. God becomes more important. But I wonder if that is even right. I wonder if it is not us in relation to God that becomes more focused through the darker times of life. I’m really not sure what I mean by this, as I am jus beginning to sort this out. But when I think about those in my life who I know who have suffered, I often count them as some of the most driven, focused passionate individuals I know. If I think about what has changed in them, I don’t think it is their perspective on God, rather it is their perspective on themselves, or on life in general, in relation to God. It is as if they realize they have gone through something tremendous unto something else tremendous.
Our culture is engrossed in trying to avoid pain. We fill our lives with things to distract us from pain or suffering of any kind. At the same time we are a culture medicated beyond belief. We are hopped up on psychotropic drugs to numb the depression of feeling as though we are without purpose and our lives do not exist unto something greater than ourselves.
So I wonder, can we discover with clarity our purpose and meaning while trying to avoid pain? Are the central issues in life able to come into focus if our vision is never sharpened through pain? Are we so medicated because we have not gone through enough pain to see any purpose or meaning behind that pain? Is it only in embracing the darker realities of life that we are able to correctly see us in relation to God, and thereby see our place in what He is doing in this world?