On Steve Jobs, Providence and the Need To Trust

Yesterday we learned that Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple.  It’s almost as if he has died.  There are praises this morning on the internet worthy of obituaries.  Twitter is abuzz with grief.  I wonder what Steve Jobs has to think about this reaction.  Perhaps touched by the outpouring of those who admire and respect him.  Maybe a little annoyed that everyone thinks he is “done.”  Being an Apple addict myself, I very much hope neither he nor Apple are done, but it’s still not a bad thing to reflect on a remarkable life and some lessons to be learned.

This morning I ran across Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.  A wonderful speech with some wonderful theology.  Here is the link to hear it  directly (www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc).  In his address, Steve shares three stories of his life.  In the first, Steve describes how dropping out of college and dropping into a calligraphy course changed his destiny and maybe even the destiny of computers today.  Then he says…

 “It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very clear looking backwards 10 years later.  Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something.. your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever… because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference.”

I instantly thought of the story of Joseph and the understanding of Providence.  Joseph, too, had no idea that all the events that were transpiring in his life — dreams, brothers selling him into slavery, Potiphar’s wife seducing him and then accusing him, meeting a baker in prison, all of that — were all each dots that were leading him to a place where he could save his family and even the entire nation of Egypt from a great famine.

One thought: who really connects the dots?  If Steve had no idea that calligraphy class was so important to his future, why did he go?  He says curiosity and the call of his heart.  I aim a little higher.  The amazing way the Bible tells the story of Joseph is that God is so rarely mentioned yet always so very present in the wonderful yet subtle ways Joseph’s life is formed and shaped.

Another thought: What makes the great ones great?   Steve Jobs is one of the great ones and I think it is because he is uniquely gifted by God with vision for what he loves and what he does.  But what he chose to share with those Stanford graduates is not rocket science.  Nor is it beyond the reach of anyone.  “You have to trust in something…”  How much of what has made Steve Jobs into the innovator he is is nothing more than dogged trust in the vision he has for his life’s work.  Might we even say vocation?  Calling?  Faith… unswerving, unwavering, uncompromising faith.

In my college years, I learned a lot about calling.  Some I learned from my campus pastor who was instrumental in helping me see how I was called.  But I learned a lot from her forester husband.  He was very good at what he did.  He told us once, “I was called to be a forester.  It is who I am.”  Faith… unswerving, unwavering, uncompromising.

I hope Steve Jobs all the best in his new position at Apple and his new position in life.  I pray good health for him and that he has many more years to share lessons about design, vision and life with us.  Technology, and life, would be duller without him.

Hello world!

Well… here goes another attempt at sharing ideas publicly from time to time, for what they are worth.  It’s good to write if only to clear the cobwebs and see my musings out in the real world (or at least the virtual one outside of my own head).  Some of my creativity goes toward producing theme images for worship each week.  And I have benefitted greatly from others who have shared their visual creations online (and often free) I thought it was time to contribute a little.  If you happen to stumble across my site and find something useful or inspiring, say a prayer of thanks to all of those who’ve inspired and helped me.  And feel free to leave a few comments too.  I’m always trying to learn; that includes learning not to take myself too seriously.

Lord, Remember Me! Thoughts on News about Coach Pat Summitt

Recently the legendary coach Pat Summitt has disclosed to the world that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia… a condition that will likely take her cognitive capacity and even her memories from a figure who has been revolutionary not only for women’s basketball but for all of sport.  In true Pat Summitt spirit, she told the Knoxville News-Sentinel, “There’s not going to be any pity party and I’ll make sure of that.”[1]  But the sports world and many who look up to her are shocked and grieved by this news.

Coach Summitt’s recent diagnosis shines a light on a growing concern in our country – the mental health of our aging population.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.[2]  This number will increase dramatically as the Baby Boomers age.  Alzheimer’s and dementia in general robs its victim of more than ability; it takes something more precious: identity and the ability to relate.  There are few families today who do not know the grief of saying goodbye to a loved one long before they die because of the affects of Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Of Coach Summitt, Wetzel describes this grief well:

“… this is one cruel disease.  What a life this woman has led, and for her not to be able to sit back for decades to come and enjoy every last memory? What an impact this woman has had on so many other lives, and there’s a chance she won’t get to appreciate it, or recall it?  And how brutal is it that a woman of such accomplishment, wisdom and impact might have her career cut short, robbing any number of players that would’ve enjoyed her guidance.”[3]

Memory and forgetfulness are important theological themes especially in the Hebrew Canon.  Forgetfulness leads to isolation from God and usually ends in disaster.  In Deuteronomy, the people of God are implored no less than 20 times to remember and not forget…  the poignant irony of a book written by a people who have forgotten and are trying to remember who they were called to be.  The Psalms too are filled with the relationship between memory and salvation (Psalm 50:22 ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.’)  The Psalmist often declares she should be saved by God precisely because she remembers (“Look on my misery and rescue me, for I do not forget your law.”, Psalm 119:153)

If memory is so important to our continued life and even salvation, what does that mean for those who “forget” through Alzheimer’s and dementia?  Are they destined to “depart to Sheol” with the wicked because the have forgotten themselves and God?(Psalm 9:17)  Will God forget them because they have forgotten God?

God’s apparent forgetfulness is perhaps of more importance to the Psalmist than her own.

How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me for ever?  How long will you hid your face from me?  (Psalm 13:1)

Why do you hid your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (Psalm 44:24)

On many occasions it is God’s remembering that saves God’s people.  Noah is saved from the Ark because God remembers; Rachel and Hannah were given children; Moses is sent to save the Israel from slavery.  My favorite passage is God’s own proclamation in Isaiah.

Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)

Ultimately our hope is not in our own memory but in God’s.   And when we can no longer remember for whatever reason, God will remember us and through remembering will re-member us through the Resurrection (remembering is re-membering, a great line I learned from Stanley Hauerwas… I think!)

Just as it is God’s promise to remember, I think it is also the church’s task to remember especially for those who have forgetten.  When powers and principalities forget who is really in charge of this world or forget the needs of those they are called to serve, it is the church’s place to stand up and help them remember.  This week Martin Luther King’s Memorial in Washington D.C. was dedicated.  It is our responsibility to remember his words and legacy.  When our grandfather looks at us with confusion in his eyes and asks, “Who are you again?” it is our bittersweet burden to remember for him not only who we are, but also who he was and through God’s grace and remembering he can become again.

As Jesus was struggling on the cross to take his last breaths, the criminal dying next to me had only one request, “Remember me.”

“Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  Something worth remembering.

[1] Dan Wetzel, “Dementia diagnosis won’t stop Pat Summitt,” Yahoo! Sports website (http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/womens-basketball/news?slug=dw-dementia_diagnosis_wont_stop_summitt_082311)

[2] “2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” (http://www.alz.org/downloads/Facts_Figures_2011.pdf)

[3] Ibid. Wetzel