My Favorite Icon

Eternal protection from the most evil hacker of all time.

by Gary B. Swanson

Looking over the wide variety of commands in a word processing program is always kind of fun. You ask yourself, Who in the world would ever need all this stuff?

Even with a copy of Webster’s Standard Collegiate close at hand, you can’t always figure out what all these icons mean. The creators of computer hardware and software are ever wrenching the English language in new directions. Thanks to them, we have completely new meanings for old familiar words like mouse, drive, floppy, and window.

So I am left to decipher these features available to me in my word processing program. I wonder what this one does? I ask myself. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of reading the manual; that’s a last resort. Instead, I work by trial and terror.

Word association

I browse through the list of commands and play a little game of word association.

Character mapping, for example. What’s that all about? No doubt my character could use a little mapping — a certain amount of guidance, maybe; but that isn’t available in a word processing program, is it?

Here’s another: manual kerning. OK, manual refers to things you can do with your hands. Kerning? Didn’t I read somewhere that this is the ability to remove your false teeth and cover your nose with your lower lip? Or is that gurning? If I don’t know what kerning means, I must not need it in my word processor.

One of my favorites is hide family. This one always brings a smile. I remember when I could have used a button for this.

Once when I was a college freshman, my grandparents showed up on campus unexpectedly. Thought they’d surprise me with a box of homemade cookies. When I returned to my dormitory, I found them sitting in the reception room, waiting for me.

“Where have you been?” they wanted to know.

“In the library,” I answered with a shrug, “researching for a term paper. If I’d known you were coming, I’d have been watching for you. How long have you been waiting?”

“More than an hour,” they said. “When we didn’t find you here, we got worried and went to the principal’s office to ask about you. They didn’t even know where you were.”

“We don’t call him a principal in college, Papa. He’s a president!”

“Well, no matter. What kind of school are they running here that they don’t know where their students are?”

Unfortunately, the receptionist at the front desk happened to overhear this exchange and felt called upon to share it with half the dorm over the next couple weeks. That’s one time in my life I could have used a hide family button. A hide self would have been even better, if there were such a thing.


Probably the one word processing command that offers the most positive feelings for me personally is the undelete button. This is something I can understand and embrace with enthusiasm. What a concept!

The word deleted sounds so utterly final: gone, misplaced, defunct, lost forever

But wait. What’s this? I can click on the undelete icon, and the three pages I’ve just mistakenly deleted come instantly back to the screen. After the heart-stopping realization that I’ve just deleted a week’s work, at a keystroke, it reappears as if by magic. Restored completely. What a lifesaver!

God’s love

Every time I go through this process (and that’s far more often than I care to admit), it suggests a brand new, twenty-first century illustration of God’s love for humanity. It seems to me the word undelete pretty much says it all: “God loved the world so much, He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will be undeleted and will live forever” (John 3:16, my paraphrase).

The Bible story of the lost sheep could be called the story of the deleted sheep. You know — one sheep wanders away from a flock of a hundred, and the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to find it (Luke 15:4-7). Jesus likened this to Himself — the Good Shepherd — who goes after one lost sinner. Maybe today we could say the Good Computer Programmer has found a way to restore what has been lost. I picture the undelete button as an icon for grace.

An old hymn goes something like this: “There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold.” To read the story of the lost sheep and assume that the one lost sheep refers only to drug addicts, bank robbers, and prostitutes is to miss realizing how much God loves you and me. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray . . .” (Isaiah 53:6, NIV). We all have allowed ourselves — we’ve chosen — to be deleted! This is what it means to be human.

The perfect program

Yet when God wrote the code for the software program to run our world, He thought of everything ahead of time; He wasn’t caught by surprise. There has never been — and never will be — a need for an upgrade. He knew that if He gave humanity freedom of choice, our beautiful world would be infected with a horrendous virus that, if left to itself, would have caused the whole system to crash. Satan is the most malicious hacker imaginable. We’re not talking mere mischief here; we’re talking outright malevolence — the ultimate in terrorism.

But even before it was needed, God provided an undelete button. It gives us hope that we will not be lost forever. It comes with every program and is available to us all simply for the asking.

Now that’s a pretty cool app!