Devotional from Al Terpstra

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Can’t Help Myself

In 2016, a piece of work was commissioned for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, named “Can’t
Help Myself”, by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu. They used an industrial robot, and programmed it with 32
different movements – like “scratch an itch” … “bow and shake” … “butt shake” … “happy dance”. It
was the robot’s job to help itself. The robot was driven with hydraulics, and therefore, needed hydraulic
fluid to operate … to live. A fluid leak was built into the design … and by design, it was a leak too great
for the robot to tend to by itself. So, it was equipped with a shovel/squeegee to be able to sweep leaked
fluid back into itself. The robot was encased in a plexiglass enclosure where people could watch as it
went through its various movements, including the recovery of lost hydraulic fluid. No one could
intervene, nor would/could the robot ask for any help … by design. Over time, despite all its own efforts
to reclaim lost fluid, and its entertaining value to the audience, who would watch it go through its
various movements, the robot eventually bled out, and ”died”.

Can we, on our own, sufficiently help ourselves, completely in our own power, will and confidence? We
live in a culture that focuses so much on the individual, and “self-improvement” and “our truth” and
living to be our “most authentic selves”. So, of course, we succeed or fail solely in our own strength.

What about our own faith? Are we saved and then left to ourselves to work out our salvation, stranding
ourselves on an island of self-reliance? Are we to solely handle everything that the world throws at us …
to counter the attacks of the enemy? I’d suggest it would be as futile an endeavor as the robot’s quest
to help itself, to try to be completely self-sufficient in matters of faith and life. We have limited strength
in ourselves, and by ourselves … we have much limited knowledge … we have much limited wisdom …
we have a depraved nature that focuses naturally inward, instead of upward and outward.

Let me say this: I can say that I have typically been one not to ask for help, believing in my own self-
sufficiency … and unfortunately, many times the ask was too late to accomplish what was intended
and/or needed.

God has designed and created such a plan for us, that should we pay attention and commit to it, we
thrive, we grow in our love a faith of God and his people, and we build a stronger community … a
community of faith, in God’s strength. The benefits of fellowship are many … encouragement … spiritual
growth … sharing of burdens (both your own and helping carry other’s) … harmony … humility … to
name a few. His ways are always for our benefit … for our good. Through life’s triumphs and defeats, in
our faith, we have a network, with direct access to the designer/creator and author of our faith, and
countless others in faith, with whom we can pray, worship, laugh, cry, celebrate and grieve, etc.,

Shall we put on the exhibition, like the robot, showing all our great movements, to be “proof” to
onlookers that we can do it all, in our own limited strength, or, do we avail ourselves to grasp what God
has for us in the power of the holy spirit, in His word, in the saving grace and accomplished work of the
cross … drawing ourselves closer to God, closer to those believers around us, understanding that God
has given all these things that we might grow stronger in faith, and in gratitude, give Him the Glory only
He deserves? All I know is that by myself, I can’t help myself.