Lessons From Glass #2–Weak Spots

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Everyone thinks I am a strong person. I am in most ways, except one: living in chaos. I am great with chaos, as long as I get to sort, order, and put things away into neat and tidy places of my own choosing. But when the chaos cannot be categorized, analyzed, and put into ordered piles, or when the piles just seem to multiply like Tribbles in a Star Trek episode, then my life gets out of balance. And I don’t handle imbalance very well.

I add rhythms to my life to keep the equilibrium—morning meditation (which includes devotions/solitude), daily writing, and nighttime baths. Each week I take a Sabbath. When I can get those, no matter how cluttered and chaotic my life is, I can stay in balance.

But lately, with our packing, moving and renovating, I cannot find balance. When I unpack one box, three more are found. When I get one room situated, we need to break it down for the sub-contractors to be able to work. Whenever I try to carve a day (or even a few hours) out for Sabbath, some emergency emerges that keeps my wheels spinning. Things just will not stay in their proper places, in their neat and tidy little categories, which bring me such comfort. So my weak spots show through in the form of anger, sarcasm, and general wretchedness. Luckily for me, I have an understanding husband, even though he has been on the receiving end of my tensile stresses.

Isn’t that how it is with life? People and events just won’t stay in the neat little boxes we try to keep them in. They wriggle or ooze out into the rest of our lives causing stress, which in turn reveals our weak spots. In our stressful state, we tend to take things out on those closest to us: our families, coworkers, and friends.

That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with sturdy people. Because when your weak spots are showing, their strength can carry you through, and vice versa. The sarcasm, resentment, and hurtful words I flung at my husband this week were met with his gentle balanced encouraging hugs instead of the rebuke I deserved. (I have done the same for him when he has been in darker hours of despair.) That is what living in community is all about. Our strengths fill in where others are weak.

In glassmaking, there is something known as Prince Rupert’s Drop. Simplified, you drop a piece of molten glass into ice-cold water and it creates a glass object, which resembles a teardrop with a tail. Because of the unique nature of glass, as it quickly cools, the outside layer compresses against the still molten core, causing high compressive stress. The inside has an extremely high tensile stress because it is still somewhat molten.

The amazing part of these stresses is that when they work together, they are almost indestructible. You can even whack the head of the glass drop with a hammer and it will not break. But find it’s weak spot–the tail–and it will shatter. If you twist the tail even a millimeter, the entire piece will not just shatter, but explode into thousands of pieces from the tail up. Prince Rupert’s discovery led to the invention of tempered glass—helping car window glass to shatter into hundreds of tiny pieces instead of one or two dangerously sharp pieces.

 

Rupert's Drop exploding

Rupert’s Drop exploding

amazing-glass-experiment-prince-ruperts-drop

I will never be able to understand all of the intricacies of glass, but I learn from it every day. If life were a Prince Rupert’s Drop, I would prefer to be out on the tail—far away from the maddening crowd. It feels safer and saner there. But I have learned the hard way that I need to be surrounded by people whose stresses can compliment mine and vice versa. Together we create a tempering which not only toughens, but prevents us from shattering.

I can’t imagine my life without my family, my church or my amazing friends, who hold me together from the inside out. Their transparency, resilience, and strength, keep me inspired and coming back for more. Perhaps that’s why I can’t get enough of glass either—its strength is an anomaly, and there are lessons to be learned from it each day.

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Lessons From Glass #2–Weak Spots

  1. Thomas W McLeod Jr

    Thanks, Julie. That really spoke to me. Will you indulge me in a sidebar? Do you know what Rupert was prince of?
    I’ll pray for that Sabbath time & sanity on the other side for you.

  2. Matt

    An encouraging and insightful nugget!! We all have times in our lives like this. The important thing is to understand that through all things, God is there beside us, and that these times do pass. In the Interiot Design world, we call this the “storm before the calm”. Through disorder, order is created.

  3. Good work, Julie (and Jared)! I enjoyed reading and of course I appreciate the materials science terms (e.g. tensile stresses). Since I know you relish the technical details and strive for accuracy, I’ll make one amendment to something said above:

    Indeed, tempered glass is used in cars’ side windows and back-lite to avoid dangerous shards. However, in the windshield specifically, they use normally annealed glass laminated with a polymer layer so that in the event of a collision and breakage at speed, high-velocity glass bits are not ejected into the cabin to potentially harm the passengers.

    Good to hear from you in the blogosphere again (ok, couldn’t resist using that 21st century jargon). Hope you and Tim are settling in well. MH and I are going to Melbourne Beach at Thanksgiving – will you be there? (Send me an email or call).

    Cheers,
    Rockett

  4. Great job, Julie (and Jared)! I enjoyed reading this and appreciate the peppering of materials science terms. Since I know you relish the technical details and strive for accuracy, I will make one nit-picky amendment:

    Indeed, tempered glass is used for cars’ side windows and back-lite. However, the windshield specifically is made with normally annealed glass laminated to a polymer sheet. In the event of a collision at speed and breakage of the windshield, this prevents high-velocity glass bits from being expelled into the cabin and harming the passengers.

    Sorry, a nerd just can’t keep his mouth shut for any teachable moment 🙂

    Hope you and Tim have settled in well. MH and I will be going to Melbourne Beach at Thanksgiving to visit her mother, so maybe we can meet up. Send me an email or call sometime.

    Cheers,
    Rockett

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