Years ago, I was working on a mainframe-based system at the university where I was studying, and I found a program called “Graviton”. This was nominally intended to be an educational program (which is probably why my limited account on the network had access to it), but could have been mistaken for a game. The concept was pretty simple: Three objects (representing planets) were placed on the screen, and the player chose a location out in space to drop a “particle” (perhaps a satellite or a spaceship). The path of the particle would then be calculated, as it was drawn towards the planets by gravity, and the player’s score was calculated based on how long the particle survived before crashing into a planet.
If the particle was set close to a planet, it would crash pretty quickly. However, there were special points, where the hapless particle would be drawn towards one planet, but the pull of another one would pull it off-course just enough to miss the first planet, and send it into a complex, spiraling orbit. The paths taken by particles could wind and twist around the planets, sending the player’s score higher until a return path eventually hit something, or until the slingshot effect threw the particle outside of the system.
As you might imagine, this was interesting for a little while, but then I wanted to win (or maybe cheat, but if the goal of the game was to educate me, it probably served that purpose). So, I wrote a program that would map an entire screen of possible starting locations based on how long a particle placed there would survive. At first, this was just a measurement of flight time, but after starting to also color the starting locations according to the planet that was eventually hit (and using a different color for particles that were flung out of the system), I found that there are intricate patterns that appear in these “in-between” zones, where small differences in initial conditions chaotically impact the results.
But this isn’t a story about writing a hack to beat an ostensibly educational game. The point is that I stopped playing a game where I didn’t know the outcome, and I looked for a shortcut (however hypothetical). While I have written and re-written this mapping code many times over the years (often as a platform for learning a new programming language), I am still besieged by the same character flaw: I want to know the result before I start!
God, knowing the outcome of our path even before we pick one, calls us to a different mentality, though:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
While I hope that a spacecraft’s trajectory is carefully plotted, over-analysis is no way to spend the rest of one’s life, especially when our “computing power” (our finite knowledge of the world around us) is like that little tip calculator app on our smartphone, in comparison to God’s omniscience. He is not only infinitely more knowledgeable than us, but He also loves us and cares for us. As a result, His direction is always the best option.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT
This is challenging, though. It is one thing to mentally agree with these facts. It is quite another to take our hands off of the wheel and let God direct our paths1. When we give God full authority and control over our lives, we have to find a way to be OK to not know where our little selves (like particles in space) will end up. We may sometimes feel like we’re about to crash upon re-entry, but God has worked out all of the details to achieve His plan.
So, if God points to somewhere that you need to be, then be there. If He sends you off in a specific direction, go there. If it looks like the right thing to do will cause you to get stuck in a gravity well, make sure that it is still the right thing to do and then (if it is) go for it! It takes a lot of faith to take a step when we aren’t sure where we will land, but history shows that God knows what He is doing, even when we don’t. Start where He tells you and follow the pull of His direction. If you do, you’ll land in the right place.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- This is a reason I may never own a car that has a “self-parking” feature. Another reason, though, would be the high cost of such a fancy vehicle! ↩