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.