Rewriting our Software

Besides being a pastor at our Fellowship one of my other duties includes software development. I’ve learned a lot about life from coding software. One concept that has me thinking lately is a practice called “rendering”. Rendering is how data is interpreted or “rendered” by a process. In all software are routines or processes, sometimes called functions, that accomplish some task. Often those processes need input or data to perform work on. For example, you can tell a process your age, weight, sex, and other details about your life and it then can calculate how much of an insurance risk you are. But in order to do this accurately, the process must not mistake your age for your weight. It must “render” the input values accurately.

Here’s another example. Suppose a process needs some date information. How you enter the date needs to be understood by the process. It does this through a renderer. The renderer uses a mask to interpret the date. If the mask is, “MM/DD/YYYY”, then the renderer knows that you will enter the date in this format: “08/10/2007”. If, however, you are a European you may enter the date like so, “10/08/2007”. The day and the month are reversed, but the renderer doesn’t know that, so it thinks you are saying October 8th, 2007, not, August 10th, 2007!

What does all this have to do with life? Well, each one of us has a renderer in our head. We hear things according to our own ideas, judgments, and experience. This is especially true when listening to others. They may say, “You are a real friend,” meaning that they look up to you and appreciate how loyal and kind you are. If, however, you have had bad experiences in other relationships, woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or are harboring unforgiveness in your heart, you might hear, “You are a real friend,” with a spin of sarcasm, meaning, that they are upset and berating you. Our renderer can get us into a lot of trouble.

What are we to do? How can we get our renderer to interpret accurately what others say and mean? The first step is to admit that only the person giving us the data can provide an accurate rendering. In other words, we don’t really know what people are saying. “To come to know other people, we must begin by admitting that we do not know them,” says Mike Mason. He goes on to say, “…by abrogating what we know already, we gain the advantage of acquiring new knowledge. We enter the sacred precincts of mystery. Each contact with another person now becomes an opportunity for surprise, for brand-newness, for rich delight, and for the gaining of wisdom.”

Judging one another means holding on to an inaccurate renderer. To love means giving up our prejudices, judgments, and faulty renderer.