By Tom Carter, Associate Pastor
The new machine arrived at the shop with great fanfare. It was one of only five of its kind in the US at the time and was cutting edge technology in CNC world that year. If you don’t know what a CNC machine is, think robotics-Computer Numeric Control. These machines are exactly those much-maligned things that have reduced the need for manpower in industry, and effectively consolidated many operations in to one. So, they are pretty high-tech and complex, but they are only as useful as the person programming and running them is capable of thinking.
Once the new machine was set up and ready, and after a week of advanced training with already experienced operators it was time to put the new machine to work. The great misconception involved with any technology is that somehow “it” does things on its own. In reality, the machine was only a million-dollar box that represented as many possible products. The real magic, as one learns quickly, is the relationship that forms between the programmer-operator and the machine.
CNC is a language, fraught with as much nuance and rules-made-to-be-broken as English, but as obscure to the average person as Tolkien’s Tengwar. So, people who learn to understand and use this language are few, and those who are willing to spend their days “talking” to a machine are even fewer. And like any group of coworkers, machinists have diverse sensibilities that both empower and impede them in their work.
As the men got the impressive machine up and running some in the group were very dismayed by a certain aspect of the machine, warning lights. Like the warning lights in your car, if you don’t know why they are on, they can really freak a person out. In fact, even once a person knows that the light is on for an arbitrary reason, they are usually still willing to pay to get it turned off.
“I just can’t work with that light blinking at me!” One man said. Everyone just got quiet and looked at him. We were all uncomfortable with the steady blinking but were (mostly) looking past it to stay on task. Another man responded wryly “it’s not blinking at you, it’s just blinking”. Everyone laughed as our wise guy peeled some electrician’s tape off a roll and covered the light. And just like that we were back to work!
How often do we waste valuable time worrying about another person’s blinking; It is easy to believe that I, me, we, are the target of some malicious plot by our resident blinker when really, they are blinking just the same when no one is around! Good people often have to avoid discussing important topics because they cannot see that it isn’t about them, that just like “me” others have opinions and beliefs that they do and will value whether I exist or not. And despite everything I know and understand about life, this does not make them stupid.
James writes about the evidence of faith, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (1:19-20) NASB. Pretty good advice from a book that has been “blinking” for humanity for two thousand years whether they noticed or not!
I tell this story to emphasize that there is value in looking past the “blinking” that irritates you to accomplish work that is far more valuable. The way to bring about peace and positive cooperation may not be to demand your way, but instead to ask why. And maybe, like our wise-guy someone will present a unifying solution as simple as a piece of tape. God is more powerful than you, me, technology and everybody else and yet He doesn’t demand His way, even to the dismay of many who wish He would.