Friday, January 6, 2012

God is an Engineer

The rumor of my technical prowess are spreading around Mica’s neighborhood like wildfire. They’ve somehow found out that before I became a writer, I was a maritime engineer for two decades. It used to be that when I came to Mica’s Paradise, I was put in a chair, given the cat to pet, tea to drink and quietness to absorb. Now when I turn up, the neighbors are waiting for me in droves, carrying their sick and wounded machines for me to heal.

And I must say I like it that way. Theology is a fine profession but I’m convinced that the gospel is much more attractive to believe in when one can mow the lawn with a mower that actually mows, or drive to the supermarket in a car that doesn’t lose oil or cooling fluid, and every now and then sit on a toilet that flushes afterwards. I’m grateful that, in addition to a knack for words, I have a knack for technology, and that I can help my neighbors not only with their philosophical efforts but also in their down-to-earth practical matters.

In my life I’ve seen a lot of engineers. Some good, some bad. And I’ve noticed that the difference between a good one and a bad one is not so much that a good engineer knows everything better than a bad one, but that a good one takes all the time needed to figure out what the problem is before entering the ailing device. A good engineer doesn’t try until he has it right, but looks and waits and then designs one protocol to follow and repairs the machine in one go. A good engineer takes time to dismantle a machine, displays the parts carefully and cleans them as he goes along, until he finds the fault, repairs or replaces the broken part, and assembles the machine again with great care. A good engineer doesn’t blame the machine, doesn’t swear or curse or throw parts and tools around and never has to take the whole thing apart again because he assembled it wrong the first time.

I’ve seen bad engineers and good engineers, but the highlight of my engineering career happened not on a ship but in the office of a heart surgeon I had to see. When I stepped into his office he was just in the process of repairing his desk telephone. He asked me to sit down and wait because, as he said, “I have to do this exactly right.”

He had screwed off the speaker, and held the receiver in his left hand, and a small screw driver in his right hand. As he said, “I have to do this exactly right,” he lowered his right hand in a perfect arch towards his left hand, landed the screw driver precisely on the screw he needed to tighten, waited, turned the screw a quarter turn, waited, and withdrew his right hand with a perfect arch up.

That heart surgeon was the best engineer I have ever seen, and whenever I repair something, I think of him and calmly state, “I have to do this exactly right.”

And when my neighbors ask me what made me become an engineer so long ago, I tell them: “Because God is an engineer, and I was made in His image,” and land my screw driver with a perfect arch towards the screw I need to tighten.

1 comment:

Be nice.

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