O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand! – Psalm 139:1-6
PARKING LOT FUN: So here’s the first story: A couple of days ago I picked up groceries at Target, loaded the back of the SUV, then turned around to roll my shopping cart over to the closest “return cart here” station (yes, some of us actually do that).
The cart return was a little more than 50 feet away, maybe three parking spaces back toward the store, and slightly downhill. I took one step forward then – suddenly – saw the scenario as a long putt on the 18th green to win some kind of a championship. I visualized the trajectory, gave the cart a shove, and allowed for the slope to take it back slightly to the right.
Then, and this is what caught my attention, I turned away and walked back to my car well before the cart hit the entrance to the “return.” Why? because I knew the “putt” was going to drop. No fist-pump, just a small smile to myself as I heard the sound of the shopping cart run down the shoot and come to a rest with its friends.
PSYCHOLOGY 101: The incident reminded me of something that happened during an “Intro to Psychology” class I took back in college. The professor – Dr. Ludwig – sent four of us (all guys because, apparently, we’re easier to predict!) out into the hall – where we couldn’t hear. Then he told the rest of the class he could categorize personality-types via a very simple test.
“But I’m reverse-engineering the experiment,” he said. “We’ll use what we know about these students to predict what they will on the test. The test goes like this: I hand them a sheet of scrap paper and say, ‘Please put this in the trash.'”
#1: First, he called in a business major; Ralph was serious and quiet. “Ralph is going to take the paper, walk to the trash can, put it in, and return to his desk,” the professor said before the guy came in. That’s exactly what he did.
#2: Then he called in Sam; basketball team second-string; not a guy with a lot of confidence. “Sam’s going to ball the paper up, then toss it in after he gets close enough that he can’t miss.” Sam did exactly that, dropping the shot from maybe two feet, leaning in.
#3: Third up was a larger-than-life frat guy; third-year sophomore. “Chris will ball up the paper, walk up to the can, then back away until he’s got a fairly impressive shot, but not out of his comfort zone. He’ll likely make it, but even if he misses he’s going to look around for applause. He’s going to make a big deal about this regardless.”
Chris made the shot – from a little closer in than Dr. Ludwig had predicted – then he raised both hands in the air, turned a slow circle, and pretty much required applause before he sat down.
#4: After each student, the professor explained exactly what was happening. So, by the time it was my turn, there was a little bit of a buzz and I could tell something was up.
Apparently there had been some discussion. “Derek’s a soccer player,” one girl had said. “What’s he going to do, juggle the paper then kick it in?”
“Possibly,” Dr. Ludwig responded. “But I predict that he mashes the paper into a ball, doesn’t even look at the trash can, walks all the way to his desk (at least three rows back in the auditorium style classroom), then – nonchalantly – tosses the paper. I say there’s a 99% chance he makes it. But – and this is important – make the shot or miss the shot, Derek won’t make a big deal about it. Probably just a small smile to himself as he sits down.”
So I came in, took the paper from the prof, and immediately turned it in to a ball. From there, things played out exactly as he had predicted. Dr. Ludwig then spent the balance of the hour talking about “the psychology of personality,” and I had one more reason to think seriously about social sciences as a major.
THE ESSENTIAL US: It’s interesting how one push of a shopping cart was able to connect me with something that happened 38-years ago. The memory has reminded me of how uncomplicated we often are at the core of ourselves.
I wonder at how we allow life to overwhelm us with details and complexities that render us unrecognizable, even to ourselves; when what we understand as mature, or adult, or expected effectively separates us from the fun-loving inner-self that longs to push a shopping cart 50-plus feet into a narrow opening, or take our spouse out for late-night ice-cream, or blow off Friday school and work to take the family for a long, long walk on the beach.
If we are going to grow as whole people, as people who “live like we mean it,” as disciples of Jesus (the whole point of this blog), then we are going to have to allow God access to the deeper, truer, more essential parts of ourselves. But, first, we going to have to remember what they are…
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there's always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men's Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.