Beyond Pushing Buttons

One of the things I am trying to accomplish with this blog is to challenge myself to a new level of “honest” writing, something my friend and colleague Tim Lale recommended to me a few years. While I continue to contemplate what true honesty is in relation to writing, I am reminded of a story that I think I have shared with you already at least once.

In 1972, I was a 18 year old in college outside Braunau, Austria. We had Saturdays and Tuesdays off, and one Tuesday I rode the train to Munich and visited the Museum of Science and Technology there. The massive building was filled with floor after floor of displays, demonstrating every discipline under the umbrella of science. I met another guy my age there, and we flirted with girls, made fun of guards, and did the usual things you would expect of 18 year olds. Finally we ended up in the physics wing of the university. Row after row of displays stood before us, each one calling for us to push a button and see how a pulley worked, or a lever swung, or what a gear did. And so we went from display to display pushing the buttons to watch each demonstration. After about 45 minutes of this, we turned and looked at each other and laughed. We realized that there were so many demonstrations that we had focused on finishing rather than learning. We would push button after button without looking behind the glass to see what pushing the button did.

I usually use this as an example of what our daily lives do to us. We focus on getting through the day, only to face another day, without thinking about why. And as Christians were aren’t exempt from this. I was very active with my church when I lived in Idaho years ago, and it was easy to stay focused on getting tasks done without remembering why we were doing the tasks to begin with.

When I left my job at Pacific Press in Idaho after 10 years as an editor there, the tradition was that they would send you off with an opportunity to make a last comment. And the temptation was to get back and someone or something after all of those years of labor. But I found myself at a loss for words. And so I simply said, “Remember that it’s about people.” And that’s what we need to remember as well. Sin is about selfishness. The opposite of that applies as well. Godliness is about putting others first.

We all get caught up with surviving day to day, and we forget why we are surviving in the first place. We writers focus on writing the best novel or best story or best poem ever, but we seldom stop to ask the question, Why. Why do we do what we do? Are we called to be writers? And if we are, doesn’t that instill us some sort of obligation to someone other than ourselves?

Deep thoughts, I know. But now that classes are out, and at least one of my major projects is behind me, I can afford to take the time and think those deep thoughts.

I don’t mind pushing buttons once in a while. In fact, I do it quite often. But it helps to remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing.

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