It took him ten years. You may not have read up on it lately, but it took Albert Einstein ten years of work to arrive at his Theory of General Relativity. Ten long years of ciphering numbers, and staring at equations, staring off into the universe he studied and was trying understand.
I’ve seen pictures of Albert Einstein in front of some blackboard, arms folded, wearing a frumpled old sweater. The numbers and equations on that chalkboard looked like they’d been written, re-written, erased, moved and finally erased again a thousand times. He was a man on a search for what we now know were three seemingly simple letters and a superscript. He didn’t know what those letters were, of course. He didn’t know where the search would take him when he started out. And, he didn’t know what the answer to his perplexing problem would ultimately be. He just kept ciphering numbers and staring at equations. He spent a lot of time staring off into space. He spent every waking moment, really, working, and thinking, and writing down and then erasing what he’d just written down, over and over again.
For ten long years he did that. Lots of people know that famous equation now; E=MC2. . But when Albert Einstein started his quest? He didn’t have a clue where he’d finally end up. It took him ten years to figure out those three innocent looking letters arranged in just the right way, on just the right side of that ‘equals’ sign. And the one thing, I think, that kept him searching, and thinking, and figuring and ciphering was the same thing that often causes me so much challenge. It is the idea that the problem he was thinking about had a knowable solution.
How about you? What’s the great mystery in your life right now that you can’t figure out; some unsolved challenge that you just haven’t come up with an answer for? Over the course of my more than fifty-years of ministry, perhaps the most often repeated statement folks have made in the midst of their life’s dilemma is the comment, “I don’t know what the answer is.”
That statement implies something that is almost hidden, I think: It assumes there must be an answer to the riddle I’m living. Some formula I haven’t discovered yet. A life-map with an ‘X-marks-the-spot’ that I can use to find my way to some ‘where’ or some ‘place’ or some simple equation or solution. In other words, when I declare that I ‘don’t know what the answer is,’ I am implying there must be an answer, I just haven’t discovered it yet.
Hans Kung in his book, “That the World May Believe” had a different perspective, however, He wrote, “Questions of faith are not like riddles or crossword puzzles; with things of this sort it may take one some time to find the solution, but once it’s found, everything is clear and simple. It is completely different with faith. Here we have, not human truth which men can state and understand, but God’s truth, which goes far beyond any statement or understanding of man’s.”
What he called ‘the faith’ never becomes crystal clear. In fact, faith by definition is obscure, and demands that we trust in a process that cannot be seen with human eyes. Paul says ‘We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then, face to face. Now, I know in part; but then, I shall know even as I am known.” (1 Cor. 13: 12) Only when we are in glory will it be otherwise. Until then, there will always be questions in my life that have no ‘knowable’ solution to anyone but God; there are, quite simply, difficulties and challenges in my life that will not be resolved with some simple spiritual equation.’ …’ As those challenges present themselves, I need a new appreciation for the way things really work in this world.
Some have called E=MC 2 the most beautiful equation ever discovered by man. I would disagree. I like God’s equation better; the one He inspired the Apostle Paul to record in 2 Cor. Chapter 5. A living-Word recipe for dealing with questions that have no solutions: “ We live by faith, not by sight.”