Sunday, January 08, 2006
This weekend I have a team of six students going to a robotics tournament. It’s pretty cool. I am a novice robotics coach, meaning this is my first year. I was told it was nuts to try to manage four teams (and it is) but I did it and all four teams did very well at the local tournament (each earned a trophy, and one is going to the state tournament!).
It was thrilling to watch the kids. They had to do a six minute presentation on an aspect of real world aquatic robots to a group of judges, as well as explain their engineering and programming decisions to another panel. They needed to demonstrate their problem solving abilities, and think on the fly to solve the problems that crept up. The most exciting part was the competitions. They went up against other teams in a two minute thirty second race to earn as many points as possible, performing various missions on the challenge field.
It is good for the kids. They are saying things about how they learned to work as a team, how they learned about researching, and engineering, and programming. And they had such a good time. Picture me gripping four trophies while my students dance around me shouting, high fiving, cheering.
We have a challenge table (this year’s theme is ocean-related) and the kids decide which of the nine missions they wish to attempt. Then they design, build, and program a versatile robot to do them.
What I like about it besides the educational values and the team building, is the concrete sequential thinking it forces the kids to do. Thinking through the sequence of logic and programming commands is good for them. Middle schoolers are pretty random. Random does not work with robots.
If a robot fails to do as they expect, they go back, look at the programming, and see exactly what they told the robot to do, step by step. The robot hasn’t any preferences, it doesn’t think, or want. It is doing precisely as it was programmed to do.
Unlike people. We are unpredictable. I think God wanted it that way.
It is true we often fail. Nearly continuously. But we have choices, and that is as it should be. God gave us choices from the start.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:15-17
We usually choose wrong.
The point is to be willing to set ourselves aside and be obedient to the Lord. This isn’t to say we are to be puppets. We aren’t to pray over every detail and anguish whether or not it is God‘s will. Usually it is clear enough. If we are to love the Lord with all we’ve got, and love each other the same way, it is usually easy to see what we are to do. It flows from who we are, what our skills are, what we can do for others.
I know how to put together little videos, and if I am asked to do something like that for our church, or for someone who really needs it, I am happy to do it. But being a servant does not mean always trying to do everything that comes along.
For example, I was asked if I would be a “greeter” at our church. Somehow it felt awkward. There was an immediate sense that I had to find a way to kindly say “no." Why? Another time I was asked if I would be willing to be placed on the usher schedule, assisting every other month or so with those duties. Again I felt a slight hesitation in my heart. My first impulse is to say “yes," why was I hesitating? I believe that each time it was the Holy Spirit guiding me. It turns out that I have been rather busy at the times those duties would have been performed, doing something for Him. Even though it is a small task, it fills my heart. That is the Holy Spirit telling me that I am doing what I should be doing.
There are times when there isn’t any sort of real feeling, one way or another. The last few months I have been leading a Sunday School class that discusses the sermon we had just heard (those sermons are posted on a blog linked on the left). I never felt a lot of passion one way or the other about that class. It was not an unpleasant task, it was not an enrapturing one either. There are times when I am simply working for my Lord, doing His will, even though He has not specifically pulled my strings in the process. Perhaps He knew I would do it, that the discussions there would be pleasing to Him, He didn’t need to tug me anywhere.
I might be teaching a different class, starting next month. Now this is something I feel a hearty excitement over. I know I am supposed to say “yes” to this. You may notice I didn’t say the Lord wants me to teach it. It may be that something will come up, the plans may change. But I believe that for now, the saying “yes” is what I am supposed to do.
That may sound a little confusing. Let me give another example of a “yes” that didn’t make sense.
When I was going to a junior college, getting a transfer degree on the long road toward my teaching credentials, I was carpooling with someone from my small town.
One day she asked me if I wanted to adopt a child, a pregnant teenager's. I instantly said “yes.” I quickly added that I would have to talk to my wife, but the prompting to say “yes” was very strong.
There were confirmations for that decision. There were miracles in that story. Again and again things fell into place. Again and again financing became available for things we couldn’t afford. Again and again I found things guiding me, teaching me, preparing me for the bringing home of that child born on my wife's birthday. I had a dream that clearly told me to go ahead when it got close to the actual adoption.
Now it would seem that the decision to adopt a child who would die three months later was a mistake. It wasn’t. That adoption was a great "first run" for us. It taught us the ins and outs of adoption, so we were ready for a later adoption that was interstate as well as international. It prepared us for the processes of home studies and state agencies and attorneys and background checks. And it prepared our hearts for fully loving children who entered our homes with luggage.
It prepared my heart for many other tasks as well (including this blog), such as helping those who grieve, or those who yearn for children, or simply loving more deeply. I found a broken heart can heal larger.
It was a good choice, adopting Willy.
I usually choose wrong.
My tendency is to do things that make me feel good, or make me look good, or make me comfortable. I am a selfish person. I am sinful. Anytime I think about anything before God or others I am sinning.
It is typical. People think first about themselves all of the time. I think the whole point in getting older is to grow out of that tendency. I don’t think we need to pray that the Lord gives us a parking spot by the mall entrance. We needn’t think about ourselves to that extent. We should be concerned over what He wants to do in us, not that we get every little perk that comes in life. I think we should pray the parking spot opens up for someone who recently hurt her ankle.
We are born into the world thinking we are the center of the universe. “Feed me! Change me! Play with me!” An infant’s desires are a demand that the universe recognize how important he is.
Then we learn to play along side each other, permitting others to share our toys. Gradually we learn to play with each other, then as a team. Sooner or later we learn that to woo a mate we need to place another person’s wishes before our own (at least temporarily). If we don’t stop our maturing there we begin to learn how to do it earnestly, consistently. If we keep going we can become one of those gifted people who mature to the point where they are always searching for ways to become more obedient to the Lord’s will (Lord do that in me!), which is to love Him with all we’ve got and share that love with each other.
Now the Lord didn’t have to make us that way. He could have created beings that were strictly obedient (and perhaps he did), but the opportunity to fail in our choices must make our right choices even more pleasing to Him.
He designed us to love. He wired that in... to love our children, our spouses, and perhaps to let that grow to include loving many other people and things, such a beauty, and grace, and sacrifice, and servanthood.
We weren’t programmed to follow a strict concrete sequential code of instructions. We aren’t robots on a challenge board scurrying about, blindly seeking to complete our missions.
I think in our bumbling attempts to follow Him, to follow the right instructions through all of our choices, we can please Him greatly. That is when we love one another, just as we were designed to do.