by James Amadon
I learned to spin a basketball on my finger when I was 12 years old. It took a lot of practice to toss it in the air, land it on my outstretched finger, and keep it spinning with my free hand. It required just the right amount of spin, a delicate balance of rigidity and flexibility in my finger, and perfect elliptical touches from my free hand to keep it moving. As I learned from countless failures, putting all those together did not come easy.
Now imagine how Earth, our beautiful island home, moves around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, spins around Earth’s rotational axis at 1,000 miles per hour (at the equator), and shifts its angle to the sun 2.4 degrees each year. Within this whirl of perpetual motion, it is the angular shift that creates the seasons, and brings us to an annual milestone today – the March equinox. After today, there will be more than 12 hours of daylight north of the equator. Readers in the Northern Hemisphere are celebrating the arrival of Spring – here in Seattle, my children are soaking up the emerging sunshine like human seedlings. Readers in the South are welcoming Autumn – I wish you a blessed and cozy entrance into the dwindling daylight.
These coordinated movements have been happening over and over and over again for billions of years. To contemplate such a mystery is to be taken to a place beyond words.
Yet we are verbal species, so we have to try. Scientists describe these movements with the language of physical laws – the steady, predictable, rhythmic, impersonal forces that govern the universe. A cold beauty. The psalmist employs more imaginative language to point us to the Force behind these forces. “When I contemplate Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” (Psalm 8:3). Can you imagine the divine fingers spinning the earth into motion, holding all the forces that hold us – that hold you?
Now can you imagine all the forces within your life that spin you this way and that. We twist, we tilt, we go through seasons of life when all is warmth and growth and picnics in the park, and seasons when all is cold and grey and going it alone. We can try to control these forces, but in the end we can only surrender to them or, if we see like the psalmist, to the Force behind the forces.
We spin through infinite space, yet our feet remain planted on the earth. We spin through good times and bad, yet God is mindful of us and does care for us. As you contemplate the planetary change we mark today, and as you celebrate, or mourn, the changes in your life, may the words of Ecclesiastes (with an assist from The Byrds) hold you fast:
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.
Photo attribution: I, Dennis Nilsson, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons