relativity and being brave

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil name. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.

Brad and I watched Interstellar over Christmas break. Every time I watch something about space, be it Gravity, Wall-E, Nova, my heart trembles. There is so much we look at with wonder in this world, but space seems actually magical. There can’t be another explanation for it. Except, as Interstellar tells you, there is. Human brains have somehow worked out the math and physics and theory and faith to know what’s going on in the blackness. To say, with some confidence, that a planet 1,300 light years away from where I sit right now likely has mountains that soar skyward and water pooling in the valleys left in their wake. That it takes 385 days to orbit its star–like our year, only with more breathing room.

It’s breathtaking.

The day after watching the movie, we watched the extras explaining (in the dumbest terms possible, I’m sure), the theory of relativity and how it affects time dilation. I feel smarter just typing that. Except I can’t remember all the details, only the example they gave: Say you’re sitting on a bench on the side of the road and your clone drives by you at 35 mph. To the you on the bench, time is experienced slightly slower than it is by the you in the car.

As soon as I heard that, something clicked. I’m the girl in the car. I want to be the girl on the bench. My job got more stressful. My commute got longer. I changed. Vistas opened, vistas closed. The car is picking up speed and I can’t hold on to the time. So I’ve instinctively pulled back from anything extra. I stopped working out, I canceled weeknight plans (and some weekend ones). I stopped writing here, I journaled in fits and starts. Anything to put some of me back on the bench and get the rest that slow time gives.

I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until I saw Interstellar. It took a principle of how the galaxy spins to help me understand what was happening in my head.


There’s a song we sing at church with the line “you make me brave.” I love this song because I never feel brave. I feel like clamping my eyes shut, swallowing hard, and stepping forward because that’s all I can do. The idea of being brave intoxicates me. Obviously, the “you” here is Jesus (it’s a church song, remember?), and it’s true–nothing makes me more brave than knowing how he loves me (and you, and her, and him). But there’s also the bravery that comes from Brad walking beside me to make me volunteer for something I desperately want to do but am scared of. There’s borrowed courage in my friend Kristin’s note that essentially says, I’m with you and I love you. There is the scent of bravery still on the purple knitted shawl my step grandmother (I hate that term–she’s dear dear family, and young enough to be my mom) sent me with a note about the prayers uttered during its making. There is bravery in my niece’s smile, in my sister’s voice singing forgotten lullabies from Charlotte’s Web, even in celebrating Christmas, as my friend Shanna reminded me.

In 2016, I’m asking to be made brave. Brave enough to stay in the car. Brave enough to find a way onto the bench. Brave enough to trust completely. Brave enough to feel joy. Brave enough to go. Brave enough to stay.

photo courtesy of NASA, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Full story behind it here.




  1. Mom

    It does me so much good to read your thoughts.

  2. katie

    beautiful post Joanna, and beautiful ambitions for the year ahead. I have been realising that bravery isn’t always the response that puts us in danger, or under pressure (although sometimes it is absolutely those things), sometimes bravery is saying no, being honest about what is important and what isn’t. You capture this so well, and I wish you all the best for 2016 x

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