Friday, February 16, 2007

Gracious me!

When I taught Sunday School, I liked to point out something about Elijah the prophet. You may recall the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel (probably better than me, because I'm not sure if it wasn't Mount Nougat. Don't trust my memory for details.) He contests with the prophets of Ba'al with a little challenge. If your gods are real, have them send down fire from heaven and light the sacrifice fire. They didn't, and Elijah asked God to send down fire to light his sacrifice, and HE did. This guy was Spiritual Rambo, kicking butt and taking names.

Next day, the queen was displeased and she vowed to kill Elijah. Shortly thereafter Elijah is cowering in a cave on Mount Horeb. This guy was Spiritual Looooooser, completely ineffectual.

We often take the two stories in isolation. But let's smoosh them together. What changed? Is there some documentary hypothesis where you've got one brave Elijah and another cowardly Elijah? I think not. Instead, we see the difference that grace makes. One guy is Elijah-with-grace; the other guy is Elijah-without-grace. That unseen business of God either backing you up, or leaving you to your own devices. Makes a difference.

So I'm working this afternoon and I hit a stumbling block. My software just isn't matching what it ought to be and I'm feeling like a complete moron. Sometimes I marvel at how inept I am at sorting out a problem and today was one of those times. I got up and poured the last of the coffee. I realized that I hadn't prayed for smarts. So, I send up a quick silent prayer to the effect of asking me to see where I was going wrong.

I sit down and five minutes later I've forgotten the prayer and it hits me and I see that the way these three things interact works differently when one of them is a "premium" versus a "discount" and I change my code accordingly, and voila, it works. This puts me in full-gloat-mode and I'm about to move on to the next issue. I'm feeling pretty good and pretty smart for a change.

And then I remember that prayer of a few minutes earlier, and I remember that Elijah story. Oops, I can't take any credit for what was obviously an answer to that last prayer.

So, if you ever want some software problem solved, I suggest you ask for Steve-with-grace.

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