In 1981, I was offered a promotion to manage a group of specialists. I turned the job down after they told me all the men had an IQ above 150. I didn’t think I would be smart enough to manage a group like that. After a couple of weeks, a manager, several levels above me in the company, called to ask me to take the job. He said the men didn’t require much management, but they were a little strange and required someone more normal to interface with people outside that department. He said if I ever wanted to move up in the company, this was my next move. After talking to my wife, I took the job.
The specialists, in cubicles across one wall, worked in a room the size of a gymnasium. This was before personal computers were readily available, and a large computer used for simulations filled the center of the room.
The men weren’t nearly as strange as I expected. The oddest was a man who lived in his cubicle when given a difficult assignment. There was a shower in the restroom, and he had spare clothes in a small carry-on bag in the office. The company had a cafeteria that served two meals a day, and the man’s wife would bring him supper each night and sit with him while he ate at one of the tables in the closed cafeteria. Although I’ve seen others do it since, he was the first person I ever saw put a piece of tape across the opening to his cubicle to indicate that the door was closed. If the tape was up and you passed his cubicle, he didn’t want you to speak, wave, or in any way indicate that you saw him.
The specialist explained that he had difficulty leaving work at the office while working on a problem. Although paying no attention to it, he would sit in front of the television with his family, working the issue in his head. He often didn’t hear if his wife or children spoke to him. This upset the regular routine at the house. He decided it was better for the family if he stayed at the office and worked until the problem was resolved.
If someone were assigned a particularly difficult problem, they would call the entire team together to develop a strategy to resolve it. The first time I went to one of these, it wasn’t what I expected. The specialist who had been assigned the project very simply explained the problem to those that were there. In response, one of the engineers explained the issue back to the original specialist in even simpler terms. At first, I thought they were talking down to me, but I quickly realized that’s how they talk to each other.
Whenever someone said something was “complicated,” all the specialists would smile and occasionally laugh. I later asked one of the specialists about using the word complicated. I said, “you seem to use the term as meaning you don’t understand something.”
He said, “That’s how everyone uses it. To someone who understands something, it is simple. The problem may have 100 simple things piled on top of each other, but it’s still simple things. We were in that meeting to determine what we didn’t know. We were looking for the things that were complicated and happy to find them. Most of the problems we get are caused by someone overlooking something simple. They might assume some small thing is true when it isn’t, or there may be some overriding factor that is not normally there.” One of the hallmarks of this group was that it made complicated things simple.
I have often wondered if the Lord arranged for me to be in charge of this group just to see how they think. Before I had a relationship with the Lord, religious things seemed very complicated. When I tried to read the Bible, the stories seemed straightforward, but I couldn’t understand what they all meant. Beginning on the day that I publicly stood up and proclaimed that Jesus was my savior and Lord, I started reading the New Testament, and it made sense. I still had hundreds of questions and needed help understanding references to other parts of scripture. Still, the mass of what I suddenly understood was shocking and almost overwhelming. The simple thing I believed, which turned out not to be accurate, was that I was someone the Lord couldn’t love. I discovered there was an overriding factor in my life connected with that. That overriding factor was the fact that God did love me. It changed everything.
Jesus did not violate anyone’s free will and spoke in a way that those who wanted to know and follow him could understand. What he said was simple and straightforward. But, he spoke so that the free will of those who didn’t desire to know and follow him was not offended, and they could believe whatever they wished.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he contrasted sharply with the scribes and Pharisees of his day. Since they didn’t have the Garden of Eden, the Pharisees sought to use scripture as the source of the knowledge of good and evil. They then use it to judge those who don’t live up to their standard. They loved speculations about things not written clearly and loved rules more than people. By contrast, Jesus said, “follow me,” and then showed by example how to love God and love others. Trained like a modern-day pharisee, I wonder, how do I change to just be a follower of the Lord? Well, that’s complicated.
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