Last night I stood in the post-shower mist of my bathroom and watched the water particles swirl through the air, thinking about how sooner than later, every one would fall victim to gravity before settling to a surface and resting until evaporation called it back to the air again.
I was thinking about how motion is central to the experience of the world, and if you think about it, every job you’ll ever have is simply to move one thing to somewhere else. You may be a literal mover, helping people move boxes of their crap from one home to a bigger one. You may be in finance, moving digital money from one digital wallet to another one, or maybe you’re a banker who still moves tangible cash.
Whatever your job is, you’re being paid to move something, and often this movement requires more skill than just picking something up and putting it down. A skilled plumber removes the old wax seal and affixes the new one around the base of the toilet. Picasso moved paint to the exact right position on his canvasses in order to propel him into worldwide fame. Et cetera.
The world is bursting with fitful new ways to move things around, and new things which need to be moved.
With all this motion going on all around us, it’s hard to believe in the inevitable heat death of the universe in a trillion years; the death of all things.
The coming cessation of the spinning of all atoms.
The mist of protons and electrons, just like the steam after my shower, will all settle into silence and rise no more.
Unlike the people whose bones will eventually settle into their coffins which function more like sci-fi sleeping pods than permanent crypts.
The issue is, when I look at the flurry of a world which surrounds us — the reality we woke up into one day, and one day will fall asleep beneath — it’s hard for me to believe in a coming stillness that will seize the tendons of the faithful.
And the unfaithful.
That’s the problem with Christianity as I grew up knowing it: It’s static and still. It doesn’t fit into the vibrant buzz of the world. It was like the dirt lying on the ground, offering some support but mostly just lying there.
The Tornado from Nazareth came kicking up all the old dirt and debris alike, spinning everything into a flurry — dead old religion included.
The problem with tornados is, you can’t squeeze them into books. Sure, you can read about the science of a tornado and the how’s and why’s of them. You can very evidently see their aftermath too.
But you can’t contain one.
And no matter how many books you read about tornados, you’ll never understand their screaming ferocity until you’re curled in your basement covering your head from the steel-twisting wind wrenching your home apart. In elementary school I was so terrified of tornados — not unlike photos of the deep —the other students would bully me just by showing me pictures of them. The twisting, tubular bodies of the untamable entities haunted my mind like specters. Even a little textbook photo of a tornado would send shivers down my spine and make me jolt to the next page. It was something about the wild, uncontrollable arc of raw power tearing everything apart that dominated my prepubescent (and pubescent and post-pubescent) fears.
Many of us prefer the pictures of twisters they see on TV or in their science textbooks, but don’t want to feel the breeze. And I’m not talking about actual tornados anymore.
Are you content to close your Bible on a Sunday at noon and relegate your experience of The Tornado to your church time? Or will you let Him blow some things around? Or blow everything around? It’s funny that the Hebrew word for Spirit is ruah. Almost as if God wants us to know that we can no more contain His movements than we can those unruly twisters rampaging across Oklahoma.
The thing I’ve been learning for over a year now — but don’t yet know how to give language to — is this:
The more emphasis we put on doctrine and knowledge, the more we miss the Man, Jesus, Himself. For decades, I thought I had Jesus figured out and nailed down. But you can no more nail down Jesus (heh) than you can a tornado. The religious leaders tried two millennia ago but even they couldn’t hold Him down.
I thought I had a concrete list of who was in and who was out.
But the more I get to know Jesus, the more He uproots these lists and blows them all over the place, to the point that I’m beginning to wonder if anyone can really ever stop moving altogether like the flurry of atoms that make up our very molecules. The textbook depictions of hell which crawl more from Dante’s imagination than from the pages of Scripture don’t satisfy me anymore. I’m more scared of tornados. Or non-existence.
Everything must keep moving or cease to exist.
Here’s the thing about certainty. If Jesus wanted us to know with certainty about life after death, He would have told us. Instead, we are left with vague references to what we now call ‘heaven and hell’ and argue about piecing them together.
What was Jesus concrete about?
Feeding the hungry and giving to the poor.
Praying a lot.
Being humble and freeing the oppressed.
Why do we give more conversation to the unclear topics of the afterlife when Jesus put so much more emphasis on how we live in this life? Well the answer is pretty simple. Because if we paid attention to those, we would be uncomfortable.
We may be forced to act.
And to give up things we like.
Or worse: to love people we don’t like.
Welp, I’m going to try to wrap it up there, as much as any human can wrap up a tornado. The world spins madly on, and with it spins Jesus the Tornado. Or maybe it’s the other way around: Maybe He is the ultimate motion of the universe and we’re just caught up in His dance. I fear that nothing in the universe will ever stop spinning until He does, pulling all of creation into His vortex — all our dead religion, pain and sources of shame rise up.
New life is breathed into the limp bags in which we stored them until they no longer resemble the pallid things they used to be.
All things are made new within the twirl of this Tornado, and Jesus is slowly convincing me that He really means all things.