This morning I switched on my computer with the intention of being able to check a couple of emails and then take it with me to a meeting where it would have been helpful to have been able to use it.
The computer booted up as normal.
It showed me the login screen as normal.
I typed in my password as normal. (I don’t mean ‘normal’ is my password).
The computer showed me the normal ‘I’m thinking about it’ swirly dots.
And then it told me that my password was incorrect.
I thought that perhaps I had mis-typed it so I typed it again.
So I tried another password that I had previously used.
So I tried the first one again.
So I tried another old password.
I rebooted the computer and tried again with the current password.
I tried the old ones again.
I checked that caps lock was not on and tried again.
I was beginning to get rather flustered by this experience. In frustration I typed the current password again.
And it worked.
I have no idea why it decided that the password was acceptable this time but not on any of the previous occasions I typed exactly the same message.
I wonder if sometimes that’s how God feels about us – that we have somehow password-protected ourselves from him and even though he keeps on trying we ignore him. I have in my mind a new painting along the lines of Holman Hunt’s famous ‘Light of the World’ in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The new painting has Jesus at a computer and the caption reads, “Behold I sit at the computer and attempt to login. If anyone will accept my password and give me access I will enter their domain and program with them, and they with me.”
Things have changed a lot since I was a teenager. Technology has changed significantly (I am sat in a room with two other people who are also typing on their Turing Machines*) and has affected how we access and share information as well as how we communicate with one another.
There’s a line in the hymn ‘Abide with me’ that says, “Change and decay in all I see…” This reflects an attitude that correlates change with negative outcomes. I have to say that I don’t share that approach. This is not a nostalgic bloggage about how much better things used to be or a lament about the things we have lost. It is a recognition that change is not necessarily bad.
I have changed: I hope that I am a better person because of that, and I am now defined more by being a husband and father than being a son and brother (although I have not stopped being that as well). I am more experienced as a human being. I am more experienced as a Minister. I hope that I am a more mature preacher. I understand things differently today and I realise today how much I don’t know.
How have you changed? How much are you willing to be changed?
Be blessed, be a blessing
*Alan Turing was the first person to postulate the concept of a Universal Machine that could carry out any calculations and be reprogrammed, which he named after himself. Modern day computers are the incarnation of that concept.
Yesterday my computer decided to go slow. It was running well below optimal and I could not work out why. I was not running lots of programs, I was not asking it to do anything particularly difficult. I was stumped.
Until I saw a little icon in the system tray (that’s the bit in the bottom right of a windows screen). It was telling me that there were some updates that the computer needed to do. Bless it’s little cotton socks it was trying to download almost 400MB of updates in the background so as not to disturb me. However by trying not to disturb me it disturbed me. On their own none of the updates were particularly large but there were loads of them: hence the large amount of data being downloaded.
A thought occurred to me as I decided to close everything else down and let the computer get on with it: sometimes when God’s Spirit is at work within us he is at work ‘in the background’ – subtly, gently, imperceptibly changing us to become more like the people God created us to be. But those gradual cumulative updates make a big difference to us over time. It’s not just the passage of time and gaining of experience that helps to transform us, if we ask him to envelope into God’s Spirit changes our operating system, installs new features and enhances our performance.
A further thought occurred to me this morning as I reflected on the size of the cumulative updates. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. It ran Sinclair BASIC, operated in black and white on a TV screen, and had a massive 1K of memory. Programs had to be loaded via a cassette tape recorder. I can remember being thrilled when I acquired a 16K RAM pack: that gave me so much more scope not only to run amazing programs such as 3-D Monster Maze but to write my own programs. I wrote a program illustrating the different badges in the Boys Brigade awards scheme (for which I was awarded a badge) that even had a little animated Boys Brigade lad who scrolled across the screen and saluted. I couldn’t imagine ever needing anything more.
Then I was bought a Sinclair ZX Spectrum (48K and colour!). This was the pinnacle of computing. It still ran Sinclair BASIC but now I had so many more commands at my disposal, so much more memory, and enhanced graphics with colours. If you have ever owned a ZX Spectrum and have played Elite you will know just how amazing that little computer was. (If you haven’t you have missed out). I couldn’t imagine ever needing anything more.
When I started at Bible College I bought an Amstrad word processor. It had its own monochrome green screen, a separate keyboard and printer, and even saved files onto discs. It had 256K of memory which I upgraded to 512K! I couldn’t imagine ever needing anything more.
Then a friend of mine at college told me he was selling his 286 PC which had its own colour monitor, 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard disk. It was running some newfangled operating system called Windows 3.1 and had icons you clicked on the screen with something called a mouse. I bought it off him and bought a new form of printer called an inkjet printer that produced wonderful quality. I couldn’t imagine ever needing anything more.
Since then I have had a succession of computers. Each one has been faster, more impressive, has had more features, has had newer operating systems, and so on until I get to a computer that downloads 400 MB of data just to update itself. And each time I have thought to myself that I couldn’t imagine needing anything more. Until a few years down the line that computer has struggled to cope with newer software and the need to do things faster and more complex ways.
What is the point of telling you this computer history? Well, other than giving me a nostalgia buzz it strikes me that if I had remained content with my Sinclair ZX81 and really couldn’t imagine needing anything more I would have missed out on so much. Sometimes we can resist change because we don’t like the idea of change, or because we are comfortable with the way things are. But change is not always bad. The changes God wants to bring about within us are for our benefit and to help us to become more like the people he has created us to become. Why resist that?