On September 23, 1999 communication with the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost as the spacecraft attempted to enter orbit around Mars. Designed to study the climate and atmosphere of Mars, the mission came to an abrupt end because of navigational error. The spacecraft attempted to enter orbit at an altitude that was too low, causing it to disintegrate. The deviation from the intended course was traced back to confusion over metric and imperial units. The software was written based on metric units while the ground crew was entering course corrections based on imperial units. That little misunderstanding resulted in a $327 million cosmic torch. An understated Dr. Edward Stone, director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, “Our inability to recognize and correct this error has had major implications."
If life is a journey, then destination is determined by the course I chose. And the course I choose is determined by the measurements I use. Metric units will not lead me to the same destination as imperial units. Centimeters and inches are not interchangeable. Slight changes in direction at the outset can have major implications on my course over time. The measurements I use will make all the difference.
This weekend I went on a Band of Brothers Bootcamp, a trip designed to restore the hearts of men through a real encounter with God (www.bofbbootcamp.com). It was a rich time of learning and reflection. But on the first night as we were sitting around the fire getting to know one another, I found that I was in the company of some very successful men (by common measurements); business owners with many employees and high profitability. One was sharing about a particularly difficult year when he almost lost his business and his income was slashed by 90%. It was humbling to discover that what he was making at a 90% reduction in his income was nearly twice what I make now, the high water mark of my economic prosperity. I felt small, insignificant, as if I was a failure. Jealousy welled up. I even considered pursuing the same route, as I had been invited by someone into the same business a number of months ago.
The fog lifted when I remembered that I have never used money as a measurement for my life. I have made decisions all along without thought to financial remuneration. I spent eight years in school to get a masters degree that prepared me for the abundant prosperity of ministry. Even in ministry I didn’t choose the path to (comparable) prosperity. When I was considering moving to Syracuse to pastor a small church, there was a larger church in Maryland that was interested in me. They were so convinced that I was the man that they put their search on hold until they found out what I decided with this opportunity in Syracuse. I chose to come to Syracuse. I sensed God’s call here.
God has been faithful. He was always met my financial needs, though that has demanded careful stewardship. We have done without many things. But it hasn’t felt like a life of deprivation (my kids might argue otherwise). If I haven ‘t written the program of my life to respond to dollars and cents , then I ought not be surprised that by that standard I’m the satellite that comes in too low. I may not incinerate, but I do sputter. But my program was written for other measurements.
Lately I’ve been contemplating the first couple chapters in the gospel of Mark. These chapters have spoken to me in powerful ways. They have opened my eyes to what it means to follow Jesus. They remind me of the measurements I have designed my life for. In the next few blog posts I intend to unpack some of those lessons. But it starts here. With a realization that the course of my life is determined by the measuring stick I use. What I value will influence my decisions. My decisions will determine my course. My course will determine my destination…though I wouldn’t object if that course just happened to intersect with a load of money.