Many people, myself included, have what I call Pretentious Initials after their names. For the most part these initials are hard to come by, though I’ve found that some of the longest, most obscure ones are not. For my part the Pretentious Initials I use are PE and MSCE, in that order. Wonderful thing about pretension, you can prioritize which pretentious title is more pretentious.
The second set of letters is much less used, and its use is more subjective. It indicates that I have a Master’s of Science in Civil Engineering. A good number of engineers get a graduate degree in business or an easier non-technical field, I however chose to go the technical route and earn my Master’s studying traffic and transportation including a thesis that I am proud of.
I am a Professional Engineer, which requires licensing by the State (or several States). If you use those pretentious initials without receiving a license by the State you can be fined, censured or any number of other matters by the State. Licensure in one State does not necessarily mean you can go to the next State and say you’re an engineer or else you face the same penalties there. In order to get that license you must have a degree, four years of experience and have passed 2 eight-hour exams. It is not easy, I have known many great engineers who failed one or both tests four or five times. It is not an exclusive club, but there are only a small number of people in the group when compared to the population at large. Someone once described being a PE to me as a glass football. Very much similar to the BS Championship Trophy that the NCAA gives away to a team each year. On occasion the team earns it, but that’s a different matter. Everyone strives for that glass football, working tirelessly, sweating profusely, training, working, until that day that they are able to hold it aloft and claim it as their own. At that time, you realize you are holding a glass football. You don’t want anyone to take your glass football, and if you drop it, you’ll be holding a pile of glass. So you protect the glass football, not allowing anyone to touch it or to misuse it, or you holding it.
I fondly recall that day over four years ago that I found out I had passed the exam. My wife came to work and gave me the letter from the State. I read it and my feet no longer touched the ground. For three straight days I was on a high. Then, on day four it hit me. I was now licensed by the State to sign and seal a set of engineered plans that would/could be built and used by the public at large. If anything were wrong in the plans it would be my fault. Engineers are like doctors in that what they do can affect people and sometimes they can even kill them. But unlike doctors, engineers can kill people by the hundreds or thousands at one time. So that glass football I had strived so hard to achieve finally in my grasp now surrounds me. Rather than keep it safe by hiding it, I move carefully to protect it as it contains me.
That feeling of panic passes, but what remains is the sense of grace. I have been graced by the State to make the decisions that can affect the outcome of whatever the projects I work on can touch. I have the education, the experience, the background to make the right calls, to do the right thing, but in the end it still takes me doing the right things, making the right calls to maintain that license.
This is no less than what we are given by God. He grants us grace, we do not deserve it, we do not earn it. We get all the right education and experience to pass it on and make disciples, but at the heart of it all remains the grace of God. He gives us what we cannot earn, giving us what we cannot merit, it is a matter of grace.