Thursday, July 5, 2012

Only Slightly Eccentric!

Happy belated Aphelion Day! On July 5, a small group of people celebrates this day when our earth is the greatest distance from the sun. Come on! Admit it! Didn’t Thursday feel just a tiny bit cooler to you?

As a part of the recent, festive, out of this world celebration, I was reminded that this old, round ball of dirt and water that we call “home” travels through space in a slightly squashed orbit. I’m certain that Mrs. Davis, my third-grade teacher, back in Stevenson Elementary School in Meridian, Mississippi taught me this, but I have slept since then, learned lots of other, more important “stuff” and have forgotten almost everything that I once knew!

 Indeed, I have been recently reminded that, like the “wheels on the bus” that "go round, round, round,” every one of the sun-girdling planets certainly travels predictably around the sun. But, have you heard? None of them does it perfectly, or in what can be referred to as a “concentric” pattern. They actually orbit the sun, for sure, but they do it in, to lesser or greater extents, imperfect ways. And so, ipso facto, it is most linguistically correct to say that every planet, including our own, is “eccentric”!

I looked it up in the dictionary. Yes, “eccentric” may mean “unconventional” or “slightly strange.” Sometimes this word means “a person of unconventional and slightly strange behavior.” BUT, this word may also mean “of a non-circular orbit.”
Still in the afterglow of the Aphelion Day partying, I have been thinking a lot about eccentricity. If all of the planets are eccentric, maybe I should not deny my own irregularity. I don’t know about you, but I have always sensed that my own personal orbit was slightly squashed, flattened at places. While I try my best to be conventional and normal, I also find points in my life when I must stray from the prescribed circuit. When, after a successful twenty-year career in higher education, I left the warmth and familiarity of academia to become a local church pastor, some said, “He certainly is eccentric!” When, at the end of my fifth decade of life, Janice and I moved our lives from that comfortable home on the lake and all of the pleasures of middle-class, suburban living to a third-world country, with two foreign languages and cultures to learn, at least one person must have said, behind our backs, “Wow! Eccentric people!” Maybe “eccentric” was one of the nicer comments?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in “concentricality”. (My made-up, “eccentric” word!) I always must orbit my life, not around the sun, but around an almighty, compassionate God Who has made Himself most completely known through Jesus, the Christ. But, I honestly do not expect that I shall follow that ambit exactly or precisely, for two reasons. 1. I am a limited human being and I make mistakes – what the Bible calls “sin;” despite that reality, I have been accepted by God, not by my concentricality, but by His all-encompassing grace. 2. I am a unique, one-of-a-kind, human being, created distinctively and individually by that same loving God and given the lifetime challenge of being no one else but myself.
So, if I “march to the beat of a differ drummer,” blame it on Mrs. Davis, if you must. If you think me in outer space sometimes, I’m just travelling with my fellow eccentrics, the planets!

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