October 12, 2022
I am always intrigued by the answers you get when you ask a young person, what they want to be when they grow up? The reason is because most of the time, we are asking a person to choose between multiple choices, of which very little is known about any one of those said choices. So, even when a choice is made, it is often true, that they know very little about what they chose.
Way back, when I was an engineering student in college, I enrolled in what was known as the Cooperative Engineering Program. It was a special arrangement, where students would be given engineering internships at a company during the normal school breaks. The basic idea was that, this would enable the student to have a better idea of what it meant to do real day-to-day engineering.
Years later, after having been hired by the company at which I had done such internships, I was asked to speak to young people, who were just starting on the path I had taken. Questions ranged from whether advanced degrees really made a difference in real life, to whether the co-op program enabled better career decisions. My answers were always "yes," and always, "no." Yes, you had an opportunity to apply your craft to an industrial application and that gave valuable insight. But, no, it may or may not, lead to better careers. In my own case, I told them, it sometimes felt like dumb luck that I liked the career I wound up with, largely because my pre-conceptions, of what the career path I choose entailed, bore little resemblance to the reality.
Engineering problems in the academic environment were always neat and clean (and sometimes the answer was in the back of the book). Reality was messy, and problems were called problems for the simple reason the answer was not in the back of the book.
A friend of mine had a poster on his wall that read,
"Anybody can get the right answer, when you have all the data, but it takes real creative engineering to get the right answer, when you only have half of the data, and half of what you have is wrong, and you cannot tell which half is which."
Add to that, the fact that the most interesting problems - the ones that made or broke careers - always required some additional knowledge outside of any training you ever received. There was always the feeling of being outside of your element - outside of your comfort zone. We are always strangers in a strange land to some extent.
People cope with this reality in different ways. Some retreat and back away from the front lines; try to find a safer niche, where the problems are more academic, more tractable. Others embrace the uncertain reality. They begin to see their training as having taught them a general skill of problem solving, rather than answers to specific questions. They find ways to adapt, to grow, to bloom where they were planted, so to speak.
There is an old legend of a king, that goes out to visit his garden park. He finds it in dismal shape, with most of the trees and other plants seemingly struggling to survive. He asks the various trees and shrubs, what is wrong. And in response he receives all sorts of complaints about the light not being right, the soil lacking nutrients, and either too much or too little water. The garden did not suit the plants, they told him. As he turned to go, the king noticed one little flower joyously blooming in the shade of one of the trees. The king inquires, why of all the plants in the garden, this flower is the only one that seems to be prospering. The flower responds that it is not his job to wonder why. The king, he said, planted him here and must have had a reason. Therefore, his job was to do his best to bloom where he was planted, to fulfill the vision of the king, who planted him there.
This sounds so proverbial, many people think it must be one of Solomon's proverbs, but it is not. You will not find this turn of phrase in any of the current popular Bible translations. The thought, however, is there in Jeremiah. Our Pastor, Russ, alluded to it in his message last Sunday.
It is found in Jeremiah's letter to those, who were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon in Jeremiah chapter 29, where he writes,
Jeremiah 29:4-7 "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters, find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there, do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
Real life is messy. Real life can be hard and far from ideal. And yet, wherever we find ourselves "planted" by God, He intends that we should do our best to bloom, so as to do our part in fulfilling His vision / His plan, for which He planted us there in the first place.
Bloom where you are planted.
Your Brother In Christ,
Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester