Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Parable of the Engineers

Though I studied mathematics and I call myself a "mathematician," a lot of my job is effectively engineering. When I heard this morning's Gospel (Mt 25:1-13), I thought about engineers:
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps....
In the following six verses, the Gospel finishes with the foolish maidens trying to obtain their oil, not being able to obtain any, and ultimately missing the bridegroom. At the same time, the wise maidens went with the bridegroom into the marriage feast.

As I listened to this Gospel, I thought about how the wise maidens' attentiveness and preparation had been very important. Because they prepared, they were able to meet the bridegroom (a parable for being with Christ in Heaven, I think).

On some level, just about all of engineering involves preparation: thinking about how a process should be designed, how interruptions should be handled, how a certain tool might be used and could be made more useful. Intrinsically, engineers must plan ahead.

Faith, on the other hand, can often seem to run contrary to planning. It is not that a faithful person must not or should not plan. However, having faith in the Lord often requires willingness to put aside one's plans.

Consequently, it seems to me that preparation is often looked down upon through the lens of faith - again, not as a necessity, but in practice.

Therefore, when I heard this Gospel, I was happy to make the connection between preparation in Heaven. Of course, "planning" for Heaven and planning an engineering process may often be fairly different. But I like having the parable as a context within which I think about my planning at work.

Can my engineering planning help me to become better at planning ahead for Heaven?

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