Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fried Computers and God's Providence

This would normally be the place for the Sola5 Wednesday Recap, and in a way this is it. However, the lesson that God taught me last night has been far more impactful than the one I taught my students, so I pass it along.

Every Wednesday, I head over to the church about an our before our youth meeting to finalize copies of my materials for the week – my sermon notes, outlines for my students, lyrics to the songs we’ll be singing and so on. Yesterday, I was in the process of finalizing my files when I got a call on my cell phone. I got up and talked to a friend of mine for a few minutes, pacing around the room (as is my norm when I’m on the phone, for whatever reason). In doing so, I apparently picked up a considerable amount of static charge, because when I sat back down at my computer and touched the mouse, I got a pretty good zap. Therein started the strangeness. When I went to continue my work, my computer had froze. At first I thought it was just the mouse, but the keyboard was unresponsive as well. I powered the computer down and turned it back on. The fan started up and the power light came on, but there was no BIOS beep, no clicking of the hard drive, and nothing on the screen. The monitor was in standby, which meant it wasn’t getting any sort of signal from the computer. In short, my static jolt had fried my motherboard.

The loss of the computer wasn’t the biggest deal in the world. I was pretty sure the hard drive was OK (it is), and I actually had a comparable machine that a friend of mine gave me a few months ago that I was planning to use for parts. No, the more pressing matter was that 15 minutes before our youth meeting, my plan for the night was completely unraveled. I had no notes, none of the study questions I planned to give my students, no lyrics for the songs that were going to perfectly bookend our study, nothing. Hopeful that plugging the hard drive into the new machine would allow me to quickly get the files I needed, I had one of our adults lead the first hour with our group, which is our game and fellowship time. Surely that hour would buy me the time to get the new Frankencomputer up and running.

Nope. At 7:00, I walked downstairs and stood in front of our group (which included a couple visitors) with my plan for the study shattered and none of my notes. I was going to just wing it, frantically trying to recall all the references I had written down. That’s when it hit me. Our passage last night was Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, which talks of the importance of coming before God in silence and awe and not being hasty to offer up countless words. I was about to stand before a room of teenagers and talk to them about the importance of tuning out the constant distractions our lives present and humbly and quietly seeking God in his word, both personally and corporately. I was going to tell them that so often, we approach God and his word with a million other things distracting us, not allowing us to hear with clarity and receptiveness what he has to say. Yet, here I was, rattled and nervous because my master plan for the evening had fallen through.

My confidence was in all the bells and whistles I’d added to my message for the evening. I was more focused on the peripherals than on God’s Word. I was allowing myself to be distracted by the same sorts of things that I was going to tell my students they should work to not be distracted by. Humbled, and now rattled in a whole different way, I started the study, and was honest about the lesson that God had just taught me through a burst of static electricity and some overloaded circuits. At the end of the night, I wondered whether anything productive had come from my lesson. I felt unprepared, incoherent, unsure. Then today, I got an email from one of my students talking about the impact of the lesson last night.

God fried my computer for a reason. I needed a dose of silence before God, a dose of realizing that my own ideas and plans and abilities were serving in a way to impede my dependence on God’s Word. I had thought about all the things that distract us from hearing God’s voice – our culture, our hobbies, our other loves – but I hadn’t thought about my biggest distraction: myself. It was a lesson I’m incredibly thankful for, and a motherboard was a small price to pay for it.

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