Everything That Can Be Invented Has Been Invented

March 8th, 2010

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Wow . . . what a crazy statement!  What a statement of conclusiveness and closure.  I imagine this statement being made in the environment of some high-tech sci-fi movie where everyone can fly, all diseases are cured with painless subdermal injections, and poverty has been eradicated due to an abundance of resources only seen in our wildest dreams.

Yeah, but this quote isn’t from the future.  Nope.  It was released in 1899 by the U.S. Patent Office.  Double wow!

Isn’t it uncanny how little we know about tomorrow?  It isn’t even more uncanny how much we think we know about today?  The idea that a government agency would endorse the concept that all inventiveness had already been achieved before the advent of automobiles, telephones, artificial hearts, and iPhones seems absolutely asinine today.  Oh, but we should be slow to judge and quick to look at ourselves . . . for although we may not so boldly brandish such statements of absoluteness concerning technology, we certainly proclaim with our actions, attitudes, and words the end of our own personal invention.

I will never get the job.  I will be single forever.  I just can’t break this habit.  I am done!

I imagine that the grandstands of eternity teem with stifled laughter when our near-sightedness is observed.  I bet that Abraham pipes in with some hearty chuckling when he recalls the year he was ninety-five years old . . . fifteen years past God’s promise of descendants outnumbering the sands of the shore, yet still five years away from the birth of his first child, Isaac.  Oh baby, I bet the scenery looked just a bit different from behind the cataracts of his aging eyes.

We only remember the fulfillment of the promise, but the individuals of history remember the years in between.  David recalls the years of tending to filthy sheep . . . and then to stinky soldiers as he hid in caves and deserts from a crazy king who sat on a throne promised to him dozens of years before.  Joseph remembers the years he spent rotting in an Egyptian prison for a crime he didn’t commit as his dreams of significance tortured him with their seemingly unreachable luster.

For each person whom God used mightily, there were years in which their only hope was found in looking forward.  There was no “hindsight bias” with which to view their stories.  From the dampness of their cells or the darkness of their caves, their “today” felt just like yours does . . . permanent.

Yesterday I attended the eightieth birthday party of my grandfather, Thomas Mack Driver.  As I sat and listened to the stories of his amazing life and ministry, I couldn’t help but think about the days in between his beginnings many years ago and today.  As a seventeen-year-old, he found himself in Berlin at the end of World War II.  Death, poverty, and unrest ravished the war-rubbled city.  Full of rebellion, he found himself addicted to gambling, alcohol, and tobacco.  His drunken antics landed him in MP prison cell.  Somehow finding his way back to the states, he encountered God at the altar of a tiny church and was instantaneously emancipated from his addictions and called to serve God with his life.

I listened to the stories of his life in ministry . . . some familiar . . . some new to me.  He ran a laundromat in an old theater building in the rough part of West Nashville.  They had revival and church service in the theater and lived in an upstairs apartment that he constructed with his own two hands from the scrap wood leftovers of what he tore down before on the same spot.  I heard stories of countless burglars and drug addicts trying to rob the laundromat.  My Papa would often chase them down the street or hold them at gunpoint on the ground until the police arrived.  One trespasser had to be shot by a church member who was living there at the time because he came at him with a crowbar with the intention of killing him.

Those are just a few of the stories.  I wonder what each of those days must’ve felt like . . . yet, he told us yesterday that he never once thought that giving up was a better idea than moving forward.  Why?  Oh, I’d say that much like the biblical heroes of faith, he believed that everything that could be invented in his life had not been invented yet.  Hebrews 11:16 (NLT) says it like this: “But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Today, I was more than just “not ashamed” . . . I was downright proud!  But I was also reminded that I don’t know what new things God may invent in my own life when the sun comes up tomorrow.  I have a heritage.  I have a heavenly hope.  All that’s left to do is keep walking the path before me today with this perspective.

I hope you will join me there.

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~ by johndriver on March 8, 2010.

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