You are watching an Army-Navy football game on TV in December 1963 when you see a touchdown that looks eerily like the touchdown you just watched. What in the world? Little do you know that you are watching the first instant replay ever, made possible by a CBS producer who was determined to make it easier to see a great TV event again -instantly.
The producer, Tony Verna, wanted to figure out how to provide a re-run of a spectacular TV moment without doing a “stop, search” process over and over again. He knew he couldn’t change the Sony equipment he was using, so he decided to use what he did have control of – the tape. When he saw that fourth quarter touchdown, he embedded a tone in the soundtrack, a tone that could only be heard in the sound both. He then backed the tape up to the sound, played the tape again and voila! – instant replay. Tony Verna used his God-given talent and skill to invent (create, design, originate) something new – and change the way we watch TV.
When I heard this story on On the Media (an NPR show) this morning, it instantly connected to a concept I have been thinking about for several weeks. As I began contemplating my second retirement this June, it occurred to me that I have re-invented myself many times in the past 50 years. I started out as a junior high teacher, then became an editorial staff member, then the assistant to the director of a non-profit agency, then an adult ed teacher, then the founder and executive director of an adult literacy agency, then a trainer of Stephen Covey material, then a writer, then a senior manager with the Michigan Chapter of the National MS Society. And now I am the Director of Spiritual Formation at a very large church, something I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams when I graduated from Hope College with a degree in English and a teaching certificate.
In most of these roles, I did as Tony Verna did: had a vision, worked with the raw material I had been given, and invented something new (although I didn’t understand that progression until later in my life). In that process, I tapped into the same process that the Master Inventor used when he made me: had a vision, worked with the raw material he had created, and invented something new. You and I are able to invent and re-invent because we are made in the image of our Maker. We can even re-invent ourselves.
I believe that God calls each of us to a particular role in a particular time and space. I also believe that God calls us out of those roles and into new ones. We may think we are totally unprepared for that new calling, but somehow we dig deep, follow the path we have been given, and make something new – of ourselves and often of that role.
I have always been totally surprised as I reached each new intersection of past and upcoming. The present that comes between what we knew and what we see ahead is often a time of unrest. We have butterflies in our stomach and sleepless nights. For me that unrest is exciting and motivating (as I imagine it was for Tony Verna as he searched for a way to create something new.) It allows me to recycle everything I have learned in the past to invent something new. It invites me to participate in the creative process that God set into motion.
It also makes life fascinating – even riveting. As Gerald May says in Simply Sane: “One can move into life with openness. It is as if one says to the world, and to life, and to one’s self, and to God, ‘Surprise me!’ This simple shift of attitude can make the difference between boredom and beauty.”