The musical group, Train, always makes me smile. Their songs have that nostalgic,
feel-good feeling mixed in with a little hope and inspiration. I ran across one of their older songs on my running journey today – a song called “Calling All Angels” from 2003. Ten years later, the song is still relevant, perhaps even more so today.
The lead singer for the band is Patrick Monahan. His unique sound and onstage presence of a messy-haired, slightly awkward little kid makes you want to root for him even more. His songs invoke memories and hope. This particular song begins with those familiar words, “I need a sign…”
As I began to listen to the song once again, my immediate thoughts take me back to a time at my workplace ten years ago. I was facing a tired and beaten project team near the end of our project, and they had just discovered why our new computer programs were not working as planned. We were getting our data from an accounting software program that did not use negative signs in the dollar amounts. Instead, it used a debit and credit indicator to determine if it was a negative number. Now all of our data was showing up as positive numbers and over-inflating the balance. I looked around the room at all the long faces, and without hesitation, immediately jumped up and started singing those words,
“I need a sign…” while using my best Train impression. They did not see the humor in it, or perhaps it was just my bad singing. Eventually though, we got through the project as we always do, but I still remember that memory and smile to myself. It was good times during the bad times.
Signs of another kind at work began to jog my memory as well – the signs of God’s constant care and interest into the details of our lives. There is one story in particular that stands out above the rest; one lesson that I will never forget. Many years ago, I was responsible for a large project that was beginning to take a wrong turn. The team had split into two different groups, each with different ideas and agendas on how to complete the work. Each group was working independently on their own, and often against each other. I knew the project would not be successful if we continued like this, and we would certainly not make our million dollar deadlines. I decided I had to call a meeting with the new Director of the company to express my concerns.
I sat in the stark conference room with the Director on that day, and began to explain the dire situation to him. After I finished, he just sat there and said nothing in reply. He turned his head slightly to the side and quietly spoke as if saying to no one in particular, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
“What?”, I thought to myself. I was expecting to hear a typical response like, “how
did this happen?” But his answer struck me as odd. What did he mean it wasn’t supposed to be this way? Who told him that? And then he did something more. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. At first I thought he must be thinking, but after an uncomfortable amount of silence, I realized he wasn’t thinking; he was praying.
It seemed to be one of those serious conversations with God too, not the quick desperate kind we often pray when we’re trying to get out of a situation. I sat there in silence, realizing this one was not about me. When he finished and looked up, he did not apologize or make excuses. He only said, “Will you give me a day?”
“Ok sure,” I replied as I fumbled around for my things and left the conference room.
I ran into my manager on the way out and he asked how the meeting went. “I’m not sure,” I said, “but we will know tomorrow.” I walked away leaving my manager with a puzzled look. “This is not how corporations are supposed to handle things,” I said under my breath, shaking my head with a sigh.
The next day I waited in anticipation. I was also a little skeptical that this too would fall short like most other good intentions do. Then miracles began to happen. Barriers were knocked down, obstacles broken, and the bureaucratic red tape that had been in place for years had suddenly disappeared. The team reunited and we were back on track with a new purpose. People asked me how I did it, but I could only shrug and say that I had done nothing.
I learned a lot that day, about how to live the rest of my life at work. I can choose to just work harder, always beating my head against the wall, or I can first go immediately to God with my problems, unapologetically to everyone else, and do things His way. After all, I have the greatest Computer Designer of all times by my side. God cares about us and our well-being, but He is not as overly concerned as we are about how to handle negative signs and computer designs. He parted the Red Sea. He raised the dead and healed the sick. He designed the Universe!
Now I understand now why Jesus refused to give the Pharisees the sign they asked for in the New Testament. There are miraculous signs all around us in everyday situations, but we must be open to believing them or we will not see them. I often wonder what could have been the outcome of our recent government shutdown and arguing between the divided groups in Congress, if they too had first tried the approach that my Director took that day.
Thank you again, Train, for the memory during my run today. Your video is a wonderful reminder of the human potential and spirit in all of us. It definitely makes me smile. But I don’t need a sign. I see God’s handiwork all around me.