Falling a drop of water

Little things mean a lot. Often, it’s the omission of those little things which can create the biggest pain and havoc in life. On January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crashed into the Pacific Ocean near California. 88 people died. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that an in-flight failure of the horizontal stabilizer trim system probably caused the accident. To put it more simply, the jack screws didn’t receive adequate lubrication during maintenance. This resulted in excessive wear causing the threads to fail during the pressure of flight at 31,000 feet.

A lot of us feel like we’re doing life at the pace of a jetliner flying at 31,000 feet these days. Every day before takeoff, we go through our checklist. Showered and dressed? Check. Ready for the day’s appointments? Check. Remembered to feed the pets? Check. Grabbed the cell phone from its charger and the stack of items to be mailed? Check. Got all family members heading out the door on time? Well, almost. Remembered to shut the garage and lock the other doors? Hmmm…hope so! And off we go. Day after day, we continue our routines and monitor these major pieces of our lives.

Then one day, we’re cruising along at our normal speed, only to notice that something’s not quite right. Without knowing why, it’s obvious that we’re losing altitude and control in the areas that mean so much to us. The sparkle has faded in our marriage and we can’t seem to remember the last meaningful conversation we had with our kids. The job we used to love has become a succession of mundane tasks. It takes more energy than we have left to connect with friends for dinner. Even our faith has become more a list of “shoulds” than “want to-s”. This is so perplexing because in the bigger scheme of things, not that much has changed in any of these areas.

In Revelation, a book of the Bible that can be hard to understand, a passage in the second chapter is pretty clear. Christ is addressing one of the early churches and he commends them for all the good, big things they are doing: hard work, endurance, rejection of evil, orthodoxy in belief. Then he follows with these words in verses 4 and 5: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first.”

Many of us need a second helping of “first love” in our lives. And as strange as it may seem, it isn’t always the big romantic get-away or some huge, life-altering change in other areas that renews us to “first love” status again. More often, it’s just taking care of the little but extremely importance maintenance issues…greasing the jackscrews of life, if you will…that helps us make course correction. Smiling at your spouse like you mean it. Lingering at bedtime to read one more book to your child. Spending an extra fifteen minutes helping a coworker finish a project that’s not on your task list. Noticing God’s blessings that surround you every day. Little things.

I think Washington Irving must’ve understood how essential it was to take care of the little things when he wrote:

The constant interchange of those thousand little courtesies which imperceptibly sweeten life, has a happy effect upon the features, and spread a mellow evening charm over the wrinkles of old age.

Maintenance matters. Little fixes can prevent a big crash and might even make the ride a lot more fun!


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