This is part four of a series about Bill, who enrolled in hospice when he was 89. Bill was the superintendent of the electrical and communications departments at the New Boston steel mill. Bill detected God’s fingerprints on all creation. He was as fascinated by the word of God as he was by the laws of physics.
“I was always big on safety. We used ultrasound to find the dark spots in a piece of steel, drilled them out and plugged them.” Bill explained. “God tests us to see what we’re made of, too.” And Bill tested his men to see what they were made of. “After I taught a fellow how to wire a three-way switch, I asked him, ‘now, do you understand it?’ When he said ‘yes,’ I told him, ‘Well, then you are close to the time when you are going to have to take a test. Explain it to the guy next to you; explain it to the group’.”
Bill recalled, “I was meeting with my group, and I asked them, ‘Does anyone know how to line out this circuit?’ A fellow spoke up and said, ‘I think I can do that.’ Then I handed him a yellow tablet and told him that I wanted him to draw it out for me. I told him, ‘Take all the time you need. There’s no rush.’ He came back to me and said, ‘Bill, I couldn’t do it; you made a liar out of me.’ I told him, ‘No, you did that yourself.’
“We had a job opening and another fellow had been telling me for quite some time that he would like to work with me, so he applied for the job. I saw that he’d worked on planes, F-14s or F-16s,whatever they were back then, and I asked him, ‘So you’re an electrician?’ He told me, ‘I want you to know what my electronics experience has been. When a transmitter wasn’t working in a plane, I would attach a few wires to it and test it, but the pilots usually already knew what the problem was. If it didn’t work, I just loosened a few bolts and took it to the repair shop where someone who knew what they were doing fixed it. I just want you to know exactly what type of electrical man you are getting.’ I asked him if it was all right if I used him to do a few odd jobs, jobs that nobody else wanted to do, and he said, ‘It’s all right with me!’ I thought, ‘Now that’s a guy I can work with,’ so I hired him.”
I believe God, like Bill, is big on safety, too. He loves the world too much to assign a responsibility to someone who it’s beyond their ability or to someone who isn’t whole-hearted or whose motives are selfish or impure. King David wrote, “The refiner’s pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3) Just as Bill tested the steel with ultrasound, God tests our hearts by His word to see if there are any “dark spots.” The writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joint and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I say … to everyone … not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them.” (Romans 12:1-8) All of us aren’t gifted electrical engineers like Bill, but we all have something to offer. Instead of pretending to be something we’re not, let’s tell people exactly what type of a person they’re getting. Let’s be willing to do a few odd jobs and even jobs that nobody else wants to do, for that’s the type of guy with which God can work.
Lou Holtz, legendary Notre Dame football coach, gave the following advice at a graduation ceremony: “Have fun with what you’re doing. Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted. Not all of us can be All-American, not everybody can be first team, everybody can be the best you are capable of being. You owe it to other people to do the maximum you can with each and everything you do.” (“Lou Holtz inspirational speech,” YouTube)
During one of my visits, Bill explained convection heating to me, and afterward asked, “So do you understand it?” I promptly admitted, “Not really. And I’m sure not going to pretend to, because I know you’ll give me the yellow tablet test.” Bill chuckled and replied, “You’re right.”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.