Monday, June 27, 2005

How I Know That God Wanted Me to be an Engineer

When I was a child, I wondered what I would be when I grew up. As a young Christian, it seemed that being a pastor would be the highest aspiration a boy could have, and for a while I assumed that was the right choice. But I was always trying to invent things, and sometimes managed to complete something that actually worked. I spent many hours making drawings of things, and when Dad got home, I often knelt on the floor alongside his chair explaining my drawings to him. My most ambitious project was a mechanical calendar that would be attached below a wall clock. Once a day, at midnight, it would highlight the next day, and at the end of the month, it would automatically move the numbers to new appropriate positions. I designed machinery for most of the functions, but the design was never completed.

So when I got to high school, my parents encouraged me to plan on a college education with an engineering emphasis. I had three brothers, 1, 3, and 4 years younger, who I knew would also be straining the family budget for college funds, so I felt responsible for getting summer jobs to earn as much money myself as I could. Every summer I found a different job, sometimes more than one if the job didn't last all summer long.

When I graduated from high school, I was set to enroll in the Engineering School of NYU, and I started searching for a summer job again. I would pack a lunch, get on my bike and go from one business to another asking for a job -- any job -- I was willing to do anything. I did this eight hours a day, and after a week of this, I became very discouraged, and it finally dawned on me that I should have been praying about it. I also began to doubt whether I had made the right career choice. Perhaps I was being selfish to pursue what I loved rather than what I used to think was God's best choice -- being a pastor or a missionary.

I began by apologizing to God for not praying earlier. And I explained that I was worried that the longer it took to find a job, less of the summer would be left for working the job. Then I began to agonize about the career choice. Was this failure to find a job God's way of telling me that I was heading down the wrong path?

God, I thought you wanted me to be an engineer. Why else would you give me these creative urges, and this curiosity about math and physics? Somebody needs to support the pastors and missionaries with more lucrative jobs, don't they?

I felt that I needed an answer SOON, and I didn't want to waver -- I wanted to be CERTAIN that I was doing what God wanted, and would bless. I thought about Gideon and his fleece (Judges 6:36-40). God made the fleece wet with dew and the ground dry to indicate his will, and the next night made the fleece dry and the ground wet to indicate his will again. Could I DARE do something like that with God? But who was I to give God an ultimatum? Yet Gideon did it TWICE, just to confirm an answer that he had ALREADY gotten twice (v. 14-16) with a previous sign from God (v. 17-21). And Gideon was not scolded for his boldness. God had answered my prayers before -- why not now, for this important decision?

So, apologizing for my boldness, I told God that having spent a week in my own strength, without prayer and without success, I would give Him one week more to find me a job. I would go looking as before, and if I got a job in a week or less, I would know that he wanted me to go to NYU and learn to be an engineer. If not, I would know that it was the wrong choice, and I would need to find out what else God had in mind.

One week. To be absolutely sure, one week exactly. I opened my eyes and looked at my watch. It was 6:00 pm on Saturday. On the dot. And I didn't tell anyone about my deal with God. It was just between me and God.

I packed a lunch and went out on my bike every day as before. Strangely, after that tense and agonizing prayer, by the end of the week I had nearly forgotten about the prayer -- at least it wasn't always on my mind.

The next Saturday, I got home a little before supper. Dad said it would be nice to have fresh corn on the cob, and asked me to come with him to the roadside stand across the state line where we often went for fresh-from-the-farm produce. I said "Yes", and soon we were there. After we bought our corn, Dad explained that I was looking for a job, and asked if they needed help on the farm. The man took one look at me, and said "Yes, I could use him." And to me, he added "Come here Monday morning at eight."

That completely took me by surprise. Oh, yes, the prayer! I looked at my watch. It was 6:00 pm on Saturday. On the dot.

God answered my prayer! Not only that, he answered it at the last minute to assure me that He was in absolute TOTAL CONTROL. Not only that, he provided the job with absolutely no reliance on any of my effort. I didn't speak a word. My Dad did all the talking.

This was the miracle job that I mentioned in my post "My Evel Knievel Bike Stunt."

That prayer -- that deal with God -- was such a strong anchor during the tough times at NYU. It was a tough grind. I was told that a third of the students didn't make it through the freshmen year, and another third dropped out before graduation. It's one thing to have an interest in engineering, and quite another to have talent. I had some talent, but I wasn't a genius. There were times when it seemed that I was in over my head, but whenever I wondered if I would get though it, I would remember my deal with God, and His amazing answer, and I just KNEW that He would get me through it.

And He did. I got a job with ITT within a month of graduating, and worked there for 43 years. I tried to work "as unto the Lord" and share my faith with others. I prayed for help with my engineering challenges, and He blessed my work. I was credited with 45 patents, but I give the credit to God. Most of the work was for military communications and security, and I prayed that God would use these things to keep our country safe from its enemies.

I never felt guilty for having a secular job, and I knew that my job was to help support the pastors and missionaries. Of my three brothers and I, two of us became engineers and two became pastors. One of them later became a missionary.


Tim said...

Wow... that's awesome.

JC said...

Tim, you have an interesting blog. I'll have to revisit it.

Dan Clark said...

Grampy- That's a cool and amazing miraculous story. We had no idea you had a blog. - Josh and Micah