I work in the safety business. I’m a Software Manager for a large corporation that builds applications which use a bunch of math to inform companies that harvest natural resources of when they may be operating their materials at unsafe conditions when pressurized. That’s a lot of words, but it basically means that when you put something under pressure, there’s an increased opportunity for failure. As history has shown, the consequences of which can be disastrous. I’ve thought a lot recently about why I do the things that I do. I’ve never been particularly great at math and in fact, I’ve been known to discuss my disdain for the subject. But as much as I may try to avoid solving an equation, I also recognize that when we use math and actually apply what the results are telling us, we can change an otherwise hazardous situation into something much more responsible, much more respectable, and more importantly, much more safe.
I have logged more than 75,000 air-miles this year and been to places from the UK to Canada to Qatar to California. I’ve spent more time on the road in hotel rooms this year than any time in my professional career and I hate that. I found myself with a day off today and I stumbled across something beautiful.
It’s difficult to make out the inscription from the image, but this is the marker for a child that passed away on February 26th, 1856 at 17 months. For 157 years this marker has stood on the top of an ancient fortress outside the ruins of a crumbling monastery. For a guy from the Mid-West, this is not something that you come across every day, but my thoughts instantly went to my girl, and the hurt this child’s parents must have felt in the days preceding and following their precious baby’s death. I wish today that I didn’t know how they felt yet at the same time, I often times wish that I was the only one who knew this pain. I know of fathers today that have lost children and the last thing they want to do is talk about it. Not because they’re ashamed or hiding from their grief, but because they don’t want to believe that other people could know how they feel. As if that would somehow lessen their own grief or force them to pick up and move on just because other people have managed to do so. It takes time and more importantly, it takes the decision to live with your grief, not away from it and certainly not immersed in it. I still remember making that choice. I felt like I was on the cusp of something. Something was brewing, but it wasn’t what I expected.
Since graduating from Calvary, I always thought the next step was seminary. That’s the logical progression and the one that perhaps most people expected who know me personally. True, I have a mind for theology and I’ve not found a subject that intrigues my mind more than this one. I wish I could find a way to teach the Scriptures all the time. But interestingly, right now isn’t the time for that. I don’t know why that is, but I’m ok with it. I’m sure that day will come but right now, the focus is different.
I’ve always had a gift to see systems holistically. I call this a gift intentionally. I certainly did not learn this in college and I think the Scriptures are clear that all we have and all we are, are simply gifts from the Father above (James 1:17, 1 Corinthians 12). I used to enjoy technology for the sake of it. I had the latest widget, I used the latest code and I applied the latest trends to the systems that I designed and built. Technology was the thing that I coveted and my pursuit was relentless. One day that changed for me. One day it was less about the technology and more about the problem. What problem was there that I could solve? How could I apply the things that I had learned to build something great? Then life changed and the focus shifted. Today the question now looks like this, “how can I apply the things that I have learned, the gifts that I possess, that patterns that I understand to make systems safe? How can I be used by God to build something so economically feasible that it forces companies to use safe practices to prevent tragedy? To prevent some other parent from feeling what I feel first hand?” Now that is something worthy, honorable and right (Philippians 4:8) and it’s what motivates me to sacrifice when I would much rather be someplace else.
I met a friend for lunch several months after Kyleigh’s birth and our discussion was puzzling. I had already made the choice to commit to whatever “cause” God was calling me to, and I was genuinely excited about having done so. I had been exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, promoted, happy and sad about the direction life was moving, but I was choosing to embrace it. Because of this, he observed that my disposition was different. So different in fact, that he doubted if I was living in reality or if I was avoiding my problems altogether. I’m grateful that he said something about it during our lunch, but it bothered me for several days. Clearly I still think about that conversation that we had but instead of being puzzled by it, I’m forced again to the Scriptures where new truths are revealed.
2 Samuel 12 contains the story of the David and the loss of his son because of the sins that he and Bathsheba committed against God and Uriah. The Scriptures are clear; the loss of their child was a consequence for what they had done. I don’t believe that’s always the case for every couple, but death is the consequence of sin, which has a rippling effect throughout history. When David learned of the death of his child, he chose to get up and go worship God. Three days after Kyleigh died I could think of no other place to be than at the sunrise service on Easter morning with Oliver on the grounds where our church will soon be constructing a new worship and children’s center. I’m excited to be a part of it, even if only peripherally until God calls me to do something else.
There’s no doubt that death today is occasionally the result of someone missing something painfully obvious. We call this negligence. That’s a nasty word in the court of law, but I’m in a position today where the math, systems and industrial best-practices can save lives. This is why I’m passionate about what I do. My job is not the first thing in my life. God is, with my family a close second. I know one day this will change abruptly and I will move on. I have no idea when that might be but I’m prepared to jump at a moment’s notice.
As I finished touring the grounds at the monastery, I turned west and looked over the castle walls into the moat that use to protect the structure. It was formidable. I looked south and saw the beaches and break walls that shield the river form the North Sea. I turned east and saw the expanse of the ocean and felt the cold winds blowing. I turned north and saw this:
I feel like David, “I will go to her, but she will not return to me.”