All year, Mars has been steadily moving eastward across the sky. Now, it’s flaring up, 10 times brighter than usual. Soon, it will stop, back up, stop again, and return to its eastbound course, performing a sort of Marzy Mambo. Just when you think you understand a thing, it loses its mind. As humans, we insist that variety is the spice of life, and we demand spontaneity in our relationships, but we are constantly probing for predictability. It makes us feel secure. If we know how something or someone is going to move, we can dance without getting a flattened toe or fat lip.
Greek astronomers defined the path of the planets: the entire universe moves around the earth in a big circle. Then a planet flared brighter. Is Mars being aggressive? If we’d had missiles back then, we might have taken aim. It zig-zagged. That’s right, you’d better step aside. You don’t want to come into our yard. A sudden reversal and it went back into its track. What? Now you want to act as though nothing happened?
Scientists revised their analysis and said, “OK, fine. The planets still move around the earth, but after further study, we’ve determined they do some wonky spirals in the process. There. It’s not like we were wrong.” Eventually, thanks to Copernicus, they had the correct combination of data and humility to scratch out their initial theory completely. It wasn’t easy. We hate to relinquish our certainties, especially those that say the universe revolves around us.
It turned out that none of the planets revolve around us. We’re actually all moving in different orbits from different distances around the sun. There is no flaring or zig-zagging, it just looks that way from here. Starting April 16, 2016, the earth will spend 11 weeks passing Mars. Like the car in the slow lane, the red planet will look as though it’s reversing. Tail lights, tag and Terrier tongue will expand one by one, until they rush with a whoosh past our rear window. On June 30, it will seem to pause and then resume its eastward march.
We’re like the ancient Greek astronomers in some ways. I’ve worn a toga once or twice. That’s not what I mean, though. What certainties do we have that need adjusting, in order to correctly interpret the things we see? If we think the world revolves around us…
1. We might think people are being aggressive or intrusive when they flare. Perhaps we are simply crossing paths. Do you instinctively take aim and scare them off? Do I forsake my orbit when I think someone is coming at me? Let’s pray for guidance, and trust that the God who set us each on our paths will be faithful to see His plans fulfilled. Philippians 1:6 NLT says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
What if people truly are aiming at you? Pray for wisdom. James 3:17 NLT says, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
2. We might feel we’re getting mixed signals when people zig-zag. Perhaps their orbits are different from ours. Maybe they need to hit a farther trajectory before wrapping back around, but from our perspective it appears that they are being unpredictable and reckless with our affection. In nearly every relationship, one person likes company and the other enjoys solitude, or one person wants just-us-two time and the other needs conversations with other people. Whether you’re in a friendship or marriage, it’s possible that when one of you needs to go to the end of your ellipse, the other will feel abandoned or insecure. Work it out. Spend both close time and away time. Build trust by being faithful and staying in touch, but keep your sanity by allowing each other adequate space.
What if it’s not just a space thing? What if the person we care about is just acting abnormal? If this is someone who matters to your life, try the MARS approach. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but I bet you’ll remember the acronym.
Moment – Take a moment or a day, but hold your tongue and emotions in check until you have time to observe them some more. Is it really a major change or a momentary glitch?
Ask — What else might be going on that could be driving your loved one? Work, family, a crisis over not being where they thought they’d be at this point in life, or a prior injury might cause them to act in a way that requires your flexibility and support. Just be careful not to do that thing–you know, that thing where you ask, “What’s wrong?” until something becomes wrong.
Respect — Respect them by listening and expecting them to tell the truth. Don’t assume you know how they’re feeling and don’t fill in gaps with suppositions.
Stop — Stop destructive behavior. If someone is being mean or manipulative, point it out and let them know you want a healthy relationship. Don’t stay around someone who puts you down or abuses you.
3. We might think God doesn’t care or prayer doesn’t work, when things don’t move around us as we’d like. Perhaps mine is not the only gravity. Perhaps I am circling something greater. Perhaps you matter, too. Maintaining an ellipse around the sun keeps the earth warm and well-lit. Putting God in the center of our lives keeps our paths lit and green with growth. Enjoy a little music while you pray this morning.
If you’d like more information about what Mars is doing, click here.