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Thoughts on How Things Work

Remember when you had to hand-crank your car window down? It wasn't just a small button that quietly lowered the window with no effort on your part. You had to work to get that sucker down.

I'm only thinking about this because, in a dazed moment late on Saturday night while finishing up my sermon for the next morning, I noticed a similar device on Loving Husband's laptop. You'd think that on such a technologically advanced machine, there'd be a password or a cyberspace-related mechanism. There should at least be an electrical catch. But, no, it's just a little lever that catches on another little bit. That's all that holds the thing closed.

Weirdly, I felt smug when I noticed this little catch. There is comfort in knowing that I can operate that catch. That I, technological simian that I am, could understand and possibly even fix it if it broke. There's satisfaction in knowing, what, that I'm in control? That this is understandable?

Honestly, when was the last time you fixed something yourself? And did it work well, the thing you fixed? It seems to me that, more and more, the things we have require specialists to service them. I'll admit I'm something of a luddite, but don't you sometimes long for the days when you could not just understand that something worked but see how it worked? Take the Krispy Kreme doughnut shops: if you go to the right one, you can see the actual process of making a doughnut, from the racks where the dough rises to the conveyor through the glaze. It's amazing--so that's how they do that, I say. And I do say it out loud. Ask Loving Husband sometime.

In my business, you don't see a lot of the workings. You rarely see the results of your labors. I won't get to see how the kids I hang out with now will turn out. The education, the fellowship, the empowering--I see some of it pay off, but most of it will really show up in 5, 10, 20 years. And when what you do and say are not received well, they're not often fixable. There is certainly no sense of being in control. Church work is hugely complicated with millions of interconnected wires and relationships. And it's as simple as a small catch.

How do I do what I do? How do you? What makes you frustrated? What gives you energy? What makes you see the interconnected wires and think, "Wow, so that's how they do that"?