Moving Mt. Fuji? Moonshots?02.24.12

A few years ago, I found a paperback book on the sale rack, a bit dog-eared, but still a good read. Thus began my relationship with How Would You Move Mount Fuji? by Richard Poundstone . (He’s recently published Are You Smart Enough to Work for Google? but since I know the answer to that without reading it I haven’t been tempted.) How Would You… is about thinking outside the box and looks at some of the questions Microsoft used in interviewing prospective employees. With my limited math training I was soon out beyond my depth, but conceptually it fascinated me and was a good counterpoint to my life in Japan where following the rules, both written and unwritten, and fitting in with the group are strongly encouraged in both church and society. The book reminded me of my western intellectual heritage and reaffirmed that I’m not necessarily stupid, immature, or crazy just because I have a different viewpoint than those around me.  However, just about that time in our lives, sudden tragedy hit. The next few years were intense ones, focused on the daily challenges of living with loss and caring for self and family. During this stretch of time, the title question dimmed in my mind as a lingering memory of a curious puzzle.

The last few years have seen a new normal, thanks to God’s healing, friends, and time. Instead of a constant focus on putting one foot ahead of the other and trying to remember to breathe, often I am able to hold the problems of my friends, my students, and their families in my heart as I pray, and wonder how certain seemingly intractable societal problems will ever be solved. As I pray, I’ve noticed that something inside of me is beginning to stir.

This thing inside of me – I’ll call it hope – is rousing, but isn’t quite fully awake yet. It’s in partial hibernation mode, unable to completely shake off the numbing darkness even though winter’s grip ought to be loosening. Perhaps it’s age-related. Or perhaps it’s just a fact that after a few hard kicks in the teeth by reality, it is hard to hope. Staying open to hope takes energy, and it leaves me exposed to the possibility of even more pain. What if I am disappointed again? Can I survive? Sadly, I sometimes find it easier not to hope, not to dream about what could be, and instead content myself with few plans, small dreams, and little prayer. Faithfulness to the tasks in front of me, I say to myself, is more important than grandiose schemes of my own making. And this is true, if the two items being weighed are faithfulness to the presenting tasks and duties on the one hand, and my own wayward ideas of what I want on the other.

Many clear days, I see a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from a car window or train platform, and with each glimpse, the dimly remembered question has slowly moved front and center in my mind. Mt. Fuji seems immovable; but if it needed to be moved, how could God and I do it? These big problems that my heart aches over, isn’t there something I could be doing to change my anger and frustration into prayer and action rather than apathy? These questions roll around in my mind, much like a silver ball in a pre-electronic pinball machine. The questions score points as they bounce off of activist tendencies which make me feel good as long as I’m “doing” something visible, then accrue penalties as they ricochet off of the awareness that I have less energy, less mental acuity, and more failures on my ledger than when I was young. I come back to the question: Shouldn’t I just be faithful to the tasks ahead of me each day and quit dreaming about unreal things?

Suddenly the air of my winter den becomes charged. I smell and feel the tingle of energy, and I hear with newly waked ears: My dilemma is a false construct. The choice is always and only this: to follow Jesus today, or not. Where the call leads, and whether the effort “succeeds” or “fails” is not my concern. I am called to follow Jesus, step by step, day by day. It may look like a choice between the safety and security of the known, concrete, justifiable ways I’ve settled into, or the challenge of moving in new directions without a roadmap. “Faithfulness to tasks” is a well-accepted excuse to avoid “faithfulness to follow God into new territory.” Prayerful discernment is needed. But the essence of the choice isn’t between new or ordinary, big or little, scary or safe; it is always and only a choice to follow (or not follow) the voice of Jesus.

Enter Google Blog post for February 6, 2012. Recently, Google sponsored “the solve for X gathering,” a place to enthusiastically engage in “technology moonshots,” efforts to address seemingly impossible problems with creativity, cooperative problem solving, and technology. “Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; they are 10x improvement, not 10%.” As I read this, something jumped inside of me: hope, now fully awake, breaking out of its self-imposed prison. Mt. Fuji can stay where it is until the Microsoft people or God move it; It looks quite glorious right where it is, but there are other seemingly impossible problems which God is calling me and you to pray and creatively cooperate with others to address in the name of Jesus.

What’s your “X”? Is there a wild, radical dream God has planted in your heart? Or perhaps you wouldn’t call it a dream yet, but a concern which has tugged at you for a long time, but it never seemed to really “fit” with your current tasks and responsibilities? Maybe you hear the whisper of the Spirit to faithfully follow the Lord, even in new directions. Neither solving for X nor moving a mountain is impossible for those who live in the faithfulness of God. And besides, the question is really only this: Will we follow the voice of Jesus today?




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2 Responses to “Moving Mt. Fuji? Moonshots?”

  1. At one time I had a dream of being like Jessica Fletcher on the “Murder She Wrote” TV show. I liked the way she supported herself writing books and how she helped people. But God wanted more of my attention so because of illness I’m concentrating on prayer and Bible study. I’ve often contemplated Matthew 17:20 “He replied, But you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” I heard recently that the mountain could stand for a problem. From this scripture it sounds like we can order a problem to move. But maybe it is our attitude that has to change. So I’m trusting God to show me what the problem is so that I can command it to move with the faith as small as a mustard seed!

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    Posted by Bobbi on 12/13/09 February 26th, 2012 at 1:41 AMReply

    • I love the way you are dialoging with God as you reflect on Scripture, your life, and the world around you.

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      Posted by Andrea Johnson on 12/13/09 February 26th, 2012 at 8:30 AMReply

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