December 12, 2007

Lesson From a Laptop

2007 1534 page30 capan you name the truck with four-wheel drive,
Smells like a steak and seats 35?
Canyonero! Canyonero!
Twelve yards long, two lanes wide,
Sixty-five tons of American pride!
She blinds everybody with her super high-beams,
She’s a squirrel-squashin’, deer-smackin’, drivin’ machine!
These lyrics, about a ridiculously huge sport utility vehicle, were first heard on The Simpsons television program in 1998-1999. I heard it on a comedy CD my friend had in college, and I found the over-the-top country twang that accompanied the satirical song delightful. However, the delight turned sour when these lyrics came blasting out of my laptop a few weeks ago—in the middle of a class on church leadership and administration.
I had been listening to the song online when my laptop battery died in the middle of the song. Forgetting that the audio was stored in the slumbering laptop, I packed up the computer and headed off to class the following day. As I sat down—after coming in late—I plugged in the laptop and pressed the “power” button. Instead of being greeted with the log-in screen, the country-fried jingle for “Canyonero” erupted from my speakers. To make matters worse, we had a guest lecturer—who looked like a deer caught in Canyonero’s super high-beams.
My hand shot out for the “mute” button. But since the log-in wasn’t up—only the music—it was no use. As people began laughing I mashed the power button, praying for relief. No use; it continued to play.
2007 1534 page30Realizing the attempts to silence my computer were futile, I unplugged it and walked out of class to uproarious laughter as the song told everyone about the “squirrel-squashin’, deer-smackin’, drivin’ machine.”
Later, with fear and trepidation, I made my way back into class, sat down, and took a breath as people smiled at me. Melody, a fellow seminarian sitting next to me, smiled and thanked me. “I really needed that today,” she said.
At least someone was blessed.
After class and throughout the day I received several more thank-yous from classmates—including some who weren’t even in the class—but were witnessed to by those who were. It apparently brought some joy and excitement to an otherwise routine morning.
I did have a scary thought later on that evening, however. What if I had been listening to something the day before that had been off-color? What if it had been crude, crass, racist, sexist, or anti-Christian? Imagine having your hidden vice broadcasted at high volume to a group of pastors and religious leaders with whom you work every day.
Jesus made an interesting promise: “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2, 3, NAB).*
The tone of this passage is not a fearful threat, but a caution regarding the simple truth that living a double life has consequences that will ultimately be exposed. Jesus warned His disciples about the type of behavior the Pharisees engaged in and called His disciples to live with integrity—a trait lacking in our world of backbiting, money laundering, power groping, and self-righteous smokescreens.
We’re all guilty of inconsistencies—watching, saying, or thinking things in private that would not be met with standing ovations in public. The good news is that we are promised forgiveness and a fresh start when our deeds are exposed (as in the story of David and Bathsheba [see 2 Samuel 11 and 12]).
As for preventive medicine, the lesson from the passage is easy: Listen to the words of Jesus. In my experience, the ability to match my private life with my public life is in direct proportion to how much of God’s Word I take in. The Word transforms and shapes our thinking, which in turn shapes our actions.
Of course, Jesus also speaks to us through experiences—possessed laptops, for instance—that remind us to make sure we live honest, transparent lives.
*Scripture texts credited to NAB are from The New American Bible, copyright © 1970, by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., and are used by permission of copyright owner. All rights reserved.
Seth Pierce studies at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He is the author of What We Believe for Teens, published by Pacific Press.