Let’s do a little geology to get started: The surface of the earth is made of giant plates (the Pacific Plate, the North American Plate, the South American Plate, the African, Arabian, Eurasian, Indian Plates—and so on). These plates that form the earth’s crust sit atop the mantle, which is semi-molten—a thick liquid, if you will. Hard plates, sitting atop a molten foundation, can shift and move. When the plates move against one another, they build up pressure until one of them gives way and—BOOM!—there is an earthquake.
Where major tectonic plates strain against one another, fault lines occur. For instance, the most well-known fault line in North America—the San Andreas Fault—runs almost the entire length of California. It’s where the western edge of the North American Plate and the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate meet. These two plates are constantly grinding on each other, building up pressure, until one of them snaps over or under the other and life on the surface is sorely disrupted. The most devastating movement along the San Andreas Fault was in 1906 when 3,000 lives were lost in San Francisco. Many scientists believe that California is due for “The Big One”—the next major earthquake resulting from movement along the San Andreas Fault.
Major fault lines exist all over the world wherever two tectonic plates touch each other. The constant movement of the plates makes these fault lines especially dangerous in terms of major cities, nuclear reactors, population centers—any place where a major earthquake could be significantly dangerous. But fault lines occurring under the ocean can be dangerous as well because of the tsunamis they create. Think back to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries—the third largest earthquake ever recorded.
But there can be minor fault lines within a major tectonic plate as well that catch people by surprise. On August 23, 2011, the largest earthquake east of the Rocky Mountains since 1897 occurred in central Virginia. It happened because of movement along a number of fault lines resulting from the formation of the Appalachian mountain chain that runs up the east coast. Fortunately, there was no loss of life, but this sudden event took the region completely by surprise.
And that’s what fault lines do. These rifts in the earth’s crust lie out of sight and explode with powerful energy at unexpected times. (But many major faults, like the San Andreas Fault, are clearly visible on the surface.)
Seismologists—scientists who study the structure and movement of the earth and its faults—are becoming more and more adept at determining when the movement of plates is likely to erupt in an earthquake. And I believe every Christian has a responsibility to become a “spiritual seismologist”—to study the fault lines in our own life and take steps to prevent upheavals that result in “lifequakes.”
There is nothing science can do to prevent earthquakes—the sudden movement of tectonic plates along a fault line. We can identify the faults, avoid building on or near them, and monitor their movement with delicate measuring devices, hoping to predict earthquakes. But when it comes down to it, we are at the mercy of the earth’s fault lines, geologically speaking. (Fault lines and plate movements make me think of the “groans and labors” of creation as the planet awaits God’s renovation [Romans 8:22; 2 Peter 3:7-13].)
Sadly, too many people take the same attitude toward the fault lines in their own life. If they have behavioral, emotional, or personality traits that consistently erupt in displays of negative energy—hurting themselves and others—they say, “That’s just me. That’s just the way I am.” Instead of taking personal responsibility for the fault lines in their lives, they blame their parents, their genes, their environment, their socio-economic status, their lack of education—anything but themselves.
Too often people say, “It’s not my fault!” when they should be saying, “I’m the one living with that fault line, living on the edge of disaster, living on the edge of irresponsibility. It’s my fault line and I’m going to own it—and, by the grace of God, see it changed.”
If sin is the spiritual equivalent of an earthquake, then we need to go beneath the surface of our lives and identify our spiritual fault lines. We need to take personal responsibility for our sins. We need to heal the fault lines before they result in “lifequakes,” resulting in irreparable damage.
Allow the Holy Spirit to give you spiritual eyes to see where the faults lie in your life. We know we have faults, and we know God wants us to take responsibility for them. By His power we can see the fault lines sealed and healed, bringing peace to ourselves and others.