August 27, 2018
A few weekends ago, I was invited to the opening of a new building at Michigan State University known as the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams or “FRIB”. If you’re like me, you have absolutely no idea what any of those words mean and you now have a small bit of smoke emitting from your ears. Here’s my best attempt at an explanation: In this building they take a beam of atoms (whatever that is) which they first run through certain gases to remove the electrons, leaving only the protons and neutrons. After this, the beam is sped up using high powered magnets until it reaches over half the speed of light (over 335, 308, 315 mph). Then the beam smashes into a target (usually carbon) which breaks off some of the protons and neutrons leaving them with a new combination of protons and neutrons, known as an isotope, to be studied. If all of that was not mind-bending enough, this whole thing is done at a temperature of around 2 degrees Kelvin (approximately -456.07 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you’re confused, so am I. In short, once they complete this machine, they will be able to create new isotopes, that have never before been found or made on Earth. Which is insane! Essentially, this group of highly intelligent people has been working together for about 25 years to create something absolutely new and they have no idea what it could lead to.
All of this got me thinking about creation. The people in this facility are literally going to create something that no one has ever seen before. They are building off of thousands of years of study and research and experimentation to create something absolutely new, which will lead to a new discovery, which will lead to a new breakthrough requiring new machines and new buildings to make more discoveries and on and on it goes. Creation is still happening! Sometimes I forget that. I forget there are new things popping up all around me all the time. Sure, creation was started a long time ago but that doesn’t mean it is over. New things grow out of the ground every Spring. When I try something new, brand new neurons are formed in my brain through a process called neurogenesis. Even the universe we live in is continually expanding creating new stars and galaxies and planets all the time.
We are living in the midst of an infinitely creative and growing reality. The question is: will we go with it? Will we participate in the creativity of the world or will we hold back and try to keep things as they are? Often our first instinct, when the world around us begins to change, is to try to halt the process and either prevent it or worse yet, try to reverse time and make things go back to the way they used to be. The invitation of the universe and of the Bible is to witness and participate in change and growth.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. – Matthew 9:17
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5a
God is doing a work in this world, in this country, and in each of us to make it all what it was always intended to be. That does not mean we have to rush the process along. It took hundreds of people almost 25 years to make the “FRIB” a reality. Sometimes change happens slowly, but all the same, the Kingdom is being brought back into reality. Instead of digging in our heels and hoping things go back to the way they were, let’s be a people who hold out open hands and ask, “How can I help?”
I have no knowledge of where the universe story might be fully or finally heading, but I can see what it has already revealed with great clarity—that knowledge builds on itself, is cumulative, and is always moving outward toward ever-greater discovery. – Richard Rohr