Thursday, November 10, 2005

The West Coast of the Periodic Table

I am not one who sees magic in the Periodic table like chemists and physicists do. To me they are just letters and numbers.

Last night, on my way home from work, I was listening to a radio programme about the periodic table. The presenter likened it to a map and talked about the “west coast”, the line of elements that are on the left hand column of the table. He talked about potassium being just south of sodium.

Then he told an interesting tale about the two elements. Apparently they look very similar and they have about the same atomic weight. It could be easy to mistake the one for the other with quite disastrous results.

Apparently someone had been carrying a sample of potassium in a bottle. After transferring it, or using it – I might have been negotiating a tricky corner in the car at this point as I don’t remember what he did with it – he bought the empty bottle back to the lab. Thinking to clean out the bottle, he turned the tap on and filled the bottle with water.

The bottle exploded, fire shot up from the sink and set the curtain alight. Clouds of black stinking smoke filled the room.

He thought the bottle was empty. It certainly looked empty, but apparently wasn’t empty at all. Just the tiniest sliver of potassium had reacted with the water and exploded. It seems that potassium reacts to quite a few things, and reacts explosively! I think that it is one of the ingredients in fireworks! It is also in bananas – which will make me treat them with a bit more respect!

Has the sample been sodium – which looks very similar and has a similar atomic weight – no amount of water would have caused a reaction.

To the untrained eye, sodium and potassium may look alike, but they behave in very different ways.

Christians and not-yet Christians may look remarkably alike! They may live in similar houses, have similar jobs and incomes, or similar hobbies and interests. Both may take an equal concern in current affairs and be into voting at elections, buying organic produce and recycling empty bottles and cans. They may even both be earnest church members and give generously.

I like to think that genuine Christians, those with a vibrant relationship with God, are like the potassium – reacting negatively to the presence of sin, and positively to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Touched by the presence of God they blaze with purity and passion! The not-yet Christians are perhaps like the sodium. They dwell in the presence of sin and perhaps even accommodate it, giving little sign of the awareness of the presence of God.

Sadly, sometimes Christians forget how to blaze. Maybe they loose a few essential spiritual atoms and protons, and end up as something less potent, less reactive, more accommodating – less like who and what God has called them to be.

1 comment:

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That's a very thought provoking post! I like it! Sometimes we do fissle and sputter like sparklers, instead of taking off like a bottle rocket!