The Soapbox

A Personal Commentary by Mark Eidemiller

"Lessons From A Hard Disk Crash"

Between Sunday afternoon, February 9, 1997 and Monday morning, February 17, 1997, my computer was out of commission. Bad.

The fault, totally and completely, was mine - literally by my own hand.

In my frustration at problems with my CD-ROM's operation, I gave my computer a little smack with the flat of my palm - and my hard drive crashed. I'd like to share with you what God showed me through that time, and continues to show me.

How many of us are emotionally attached to our computers? Raise your hands! Aha, I thought so.

Me too. This computer was my baby, an extension of myself, even if I didn't want to admit it. When it was damaged, I was damaged. And my first reaction was one of shock, realizing that the damage was at my own hand. Those around me who saw me then said that I looked as if I had just lost my best friend. Well.....

I had to face facts. This computer is not a living being. It's a tool, to be used of God and for God, and has been placed in my hands for that purpose. And as long as I do His will with it, it's going to work just fine. But when it starts becoming more than that - I start becoming obsessive with it, or devoting more time to it than I would be in ministering to people around me - then I'm looking for trouble.

Check out The parable of the talents in Matthew chapter 25. Three people, three sets of talents, given them by their master. Two out of the three had invested the talents while the master was away. The third was a jerk, who took the talent given him, stuck it in a sack and buried it, and gave it back to him unchanged. That person got tossed out on their ear.

A "talent" can be used many ways. Some people relate it to the investing of money, which it may be. But the fact it is called a "talent" leads me to believe it is the ability that God gives us - whatever it is - used for God's glory and not for our own selfish ambitions or our own goals. My talent is with computers. God has given me a good computer, and has told me to "use it or lose it."

Next mistake: I had not made a decent backup of the files. I was not a wise steward of what God had entrusted to me in this regard. I had gotten complacent and cocky - "I'm not going to need a backup! The computer works fine, the data will be safe!" To those of you out there laughing at this, it's because you've gone through it, too.

There are a lot of people out there who get complacent about God, about serving Him. They settle back into their daily routine and don't think as much about the lost as they used to. Their Bible reading has slacked off to just a few paragraphs a day, or they'll settle for reading from a devotional, someone else's comments on a scripture, without taking the time to read it from the Bible itself. Or try reading the Bible before going to bed, and sleep takes them over before the Word has a chance to. And their prayer life has dwindled to a quick blessing at meals, and maybe a couple of mentions in the bathroom or asking God to hurry the traffic up so you can get to work.

So we're not ready when the heat hits. We panic. We fry out in anger or frustration. We do anything out little minds suggest rather than stop and pray, and wait on God.

We need to consider the true priorities of life. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) When you do that, everything else will fit into place. Maybe it won't be the way you may have wanted it, but it will be what God wanted. And it will be the best way.

Towards the end of his life, Joshua gave his Final Address to the Israelites. Read the last chapter of the book of Joshua. He recounted to them what God had done for them, reminding them of His Mercy. Then he gave them an ultimatum: "Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Joshua was giving them a no-brainer. Three options:

  1. Go in the direction of the "gods your fathers served on the other side of the flood," who are dead.
  2. Go in the direction of "the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell," who are also dead at the Israelites' own hands.
  3. Serve the LORD, and live.

"And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;" Like I said, a no-brainer. But Joshua knew better, and he told them that they would fall to idolatry, rebellion, and their own desires. They tried to tell him they wouldn't, but God had gave him the inside information. The people would give in to self.

So ask yourself: who am I following? God, or self?

After it first happened, I couldn't even get a C:> prompt, no matter what I tried. I sat, doomed by my own hand. So I turned it off. Later I turned it back on, not really knowing what to do, and it came through with a prompt. I was able to get through to it now.

I also didn't have an emergency boot diskette prepared. But God came through.

A couple of weeks earlier, I was cleaning out the trunk of my car, and came upon a few things that belonged to the computer. It was a Computer Care Kit. The cardboard box was mouldy and falling apart, and most of the papers inside were in the same condition. However, there were three diskettes inside, and one of them was a red one saying THIS IS A RESCUE DISK TO BE USED ONLY IN CASE OF BOOT FAILURE OR DAMAGED FILES. I grabbed the diskettes, not sure that they'd even work. I figured that I could always reformat them and use them for something else. I was so busy, I never got to reformatting them.

REMEMBER: This was weeks before the hard drive crash. Now tell me God wasn't covering my tail!

I can definitely agree with the Psalmist who said: "Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 106:1)

For me, the hard drive was inaccessible. So was heaven prior to the cross.

But now, because of this silly little red diskette, I was now able to get in, and there was at least a hope of a solution. Just like, only through the cross and the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, there is at least a hope to salvation.

Red, like diskette - red, like the blood of Jesus. Coincidence? I DON'T THINK SO.

The last place we lived was a farm. A lot of dust. For awhile, I needed to get one of those plastic films you put over keyboards (very nice, but if it doesn't fit right it's a pain). I had suspected there was a lot of dust inside the computer, but hadn't taken the time to open it up and blow it out with one of those cans of compressed air.

This time I did that. Took the sides off and took it outside (thank God for that!). When I put the nozzle of the sprayer through the front of the fan unit (that cools down the computer), and let it loose - what a cloud of dust!!

Just showed me that we all need to get shaken up at times to clear the dust off.

I tried many ways of correcting things - in my own understanding. Some of my DOS files had been damaged, and, in trying to help things, I made it worse by deleting some of the same programs that could have saved me days and days of frustration and grief, and could have restored some files I eventually had to delete. But that wasn't the way God wanted it. I had to go through this fire exactly like it happened.

With all the fancy programs I had, the best tool I had was a little DOS file manager that had served me well for many years, and now gave me the capability of working with the hard drive and accessing the damage.

Yeah, there was damage. And the only way I could see of getting things back to normal was to do a complete system backup of the good files, reformat and wipe clean the hard drive, and start it all over. The obvious scripture came to mind: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." (Revelation 21:1)

"And there was no more C>." (Sorry - couldn't resist the pun.)

I tagged all the files that were smaller than 1.44MB. It hurt, seeing those who had to be left behind just because they were too big. Felt like Noah on the ark, seeing animals that couldn't come along because there were already two on board.

Then I started the time-consuming task of moving them one-by-one to diskettes. As I did, God showed me the scripture "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left." (Matthew 24:40) I saw files, many of them I knew well, file past me, and one would be moved to the diskette, but another would be corrupted and could not be moved. I had to stop, untag it, and keep going.

It's like what's going to happen at the end of the world. The diskettes are a good analogy for the kingdom of God. The files are people. Those who are corrupted by this world or the things in it are going to be left behind. If I tried to copy the files to diskette, some would copy all right, even though corrupted - but I'd run into a problem with them later, when I tried to run the program they were in. They had to be left behind.

From the start I knew God had been in control all through this, for my good and His glory. Now as I watched file after file scroll past, and saw which ones didn't make it, I was amazed. I saw some files I didn't recognize or care about, others I recognized but it didn't matter either way, and others I knew and didn't want to be lost - but were. And I had no choice.

It's like the scripture, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19) And, in the end, they will be separated, the wheat from the chaff. And those left behind would face the fires of hell for all eternity (well, not so much as with computer files, but you get the idea).

Once everything was off, then it didn't matter what I did to the data on the hard drive. I took it through a reformatting, and some others, to restore what I could. I was very happy when I found out that there was no permanent damage to the actual drive.

I had had files on the drive, accumulated over the past two years, which had not been needed, nor wanted. Some had been glitches, which produced files I was unable to remove. So I had labeled their subdirectory "WARNING" and stayed away from it. Now, those files were all gone, and I had a clean slate to work with.

A fresh start. Over two years of loading, unloading, copying, checking, using, removing, testing, and discarding, I ended up with a lot of unnecessary mess. But now God was giving me a second chance, to use correctly again - for Him.

I first needed a solid foundation. To us, that foundation is the Bible, the Word of God, the rock to stand on. For the computer, it was DOS (sorry, all you Windows 95 users). I loaded that out there, taking my time now, and made sure it was secure before installing Windows. So it is with God with us. Once we have the firm foundation in faith and the Word, then He can add unto us, knowing that we will stand strong with it. If we're not ready for the next step, He'll get us ready for it, then build upon that foundation.

Reinstalling was still an adventure:

  • This program had to be installed before that program, because this one had the drivers for the modem or the sound card or the graphics.
  • I was amazed at all the smaller programs I needed to reinstalling, ones I found I could not do without. I praised God that I had offloaded some of them before, and that they could be used still.
  • A few files that had been corrupted, it seemed, were nowhere to be found. But after a bit of looking, I found them - on a backup I had made in 1995 that I had contemplated scratching. Thank God I didn't!
  • The monitor decided to screw up on me a few times, then went back to normal. I still don't know why, or what I did (if anything) to correct it, but there was a teaching of patience and praying during that time.

There's a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done. Many files that didn't make it need to be recreated. Other files need the data transferred to a new program, or a newer version of the program.

One of the last installs was my mail program, Eudora Light. Files there had been corrupted, so I had to get back online and download it from the Eudora site. It took a couple of hours to do this, what with interruptions in the line (somebody downstairs picked up the phone during the download, know the rest), impatience and overloading the system (which caused it to trip and reboot), and then just trying to wait patiently for the file to download.

But it got done. And installed. And I was amazed to find out that it was a far better version than I had been using all this time. I'm going to like checking this one out.

When I got on Netscape, I did a quick check of mail. In the last week, there were almost 300 messages waiting for me. When I finally ran Eudora, there were around 311. I grinned from ear to ear watching them download, knowing they were from friends and acquaintances, and a few surprises.

A brother who probably meant well asked me if anyone ever read any of these web pages - asking me if it was doing any good. Well, when I checked my mail, I saw that three people had responded to the web site, praising God for how it had touched their hearts.

And, at two in the morning, looking at the screen and reading the responses, I thanked God with much tears and weeping, as He softly reminded me, "Yeah. It's working. It's making a difference. Keep going."

Any comments? Feel free to email me.
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