Thursday, July 20, 2017

Redemption Through Chemistry

Ready for some deep thoughts born out of many nights spent on the bathroom floor? Before you laugh, I'm actually serious...these are a compilation of thoughts I've had over the past week between the hours of midnight and 4 am...

If you didn't already know, I majored in chemistry in college (and Spanish, too, but that's not relevant for this post. Maybe my next round of bathroom thoughts by Kylene will be in Spanish...). I really enjoyed my undergraduate chemistry program. So much so, that I went on to get a MS in chemistry. The fact that I am no longer in chemistry should be an indication of how much I enjoyed THAT program.

Image may contain: one or more peopleApparently once you get to Masters level chemistry, the point is to prepare you to go into a chemistry career...they're not quite as tolerant to minor (and only 2 major!) explosions, experiments just for the purpose of changing the color of the chemicals, melting gummy bears in a fiery blaze, and miscellaneous other mischief...I'm pretty sure my advisor was relieved when I graduated! And I know the budget was...there was a reason my lab was referred to as the Glass Graveyard.

All that aside, I really did enjoy my undergraduate chemistry program beyond just playing with fire and having access to all sorts of dangerous chemicals. It was fascinating to me how 2 completely opposing chemicals could come together and create something that had no resemblance to either. Things that individually would be toxic or dangerous come together to create something not only safe, but essential for life. To me, there was no greater proof of a Creator than to just look at the intricate science behind these chemical relationships that are the foundation of our entire world.

It is one of those relationships that gave me the aha moment that prompted this post. One of my secondary diagnoses is POTS which stands for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Basically it means that my brain and my heart don't communicate properly to regulate my heart rate, blood pressure, and all sorts of other things that are considered "automatic" functions of the body. There are medications that can be used to help the autonomic nervous system (ANS) function better, but almost all are not recommended, if not actually dangerous, for someone with mast cell disease. The main reason being that the medications can interfere with the effectiveness of Epipens. So that means, no medications for me to address the POTS. Instead, there are other, non-medication options that can help. One is a high fluid, high salt died. The increased fluids act as a buffer to give the ANS more time to react to needed changes in blood pressure and heart rate, and the increased salt helps the body hold onto those fluids instead of simply passing them through.


Simple salt. Sodium chloride. NaCl.

Not just important for those of us living with POTS, but an essential compound used in many different ways all over the world. Sodium chloride is one of the best examples of this coming together of complete unrelated elements to create something bearing no resemblance to either. And it's crazy when you think about the chemistry behind it.

Sodium is an essential element for humans which means we need to get it through diet; our body cannot make sodium on its own. The balance between sodium and other elements in our body is important in maintaining many functions, one being fluid balance that I mentioned above. At room temperature (so the temperature it was in the Boom Room where all the chemicals were kept =P), sodium is a soft, silvery-gray metal block. It is the consistency of butter and is cut just like you would cut a stick of butter. At room temperature, it is extremely reactive with water and can be explosive under the right conditions. Small amounts sliced off a block of sodium into a sink cause small, sparking explosions when the slivers hit the water. (I will neither confirm nor deny whether I had any first hand experience with any reactions of this sort...)

No automatic alt text available.And now, the second half of salt, chloride. Or, technically, chlorine in its elemental state. Unlike sodium, chlorine is not stable as a solid, but as a gas. It is most known for first being used as chemical warfare during World War I. This gas is very toxic, and there is no treatment for chlorine gas poisoning. It is not nearly as much fun to play with as sodium...

Two very different elements, each individually dangerous and having the ability to cause damage and destruction upon exposure. Yet bring them together and we get a compound that is essential for life. Is that crazy or what?!?!

And if you think about it, that's exactly what God does with us. We all have those moments in our lives where we felt ourselves crumbling under the weight of whatever was going on. We feel broken down, destroyed, damaged beyond repair...And we think there is nothing that could bring about good out of the pain and hurt. Yet looking back, often we get a glimpse of how God took some of our darkest moments to bring about light we never could have imagined.

God takes the destruction, damage, and pain the enemy intended to use to destroy us and brings together moments that individually make no sense beyond the pain, but together show us evidence of God's ability to redeem even the times in our lives that we feel beyond repair.

We could not survive on earth without sodium chloride, yet each element on its own has the ability to kill. Often there are experiences or circumstances in our lives that threaten to crush us. Just like how sodium and chlorine come together to create something we cannot live without, God is able to take moments of darkness and hurt and redeem them to something that bears witness to who He is, and NOT to the events that threatened to destroy us.

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