The topic has been an ongoing conversation at our house for the past couple of weeks:
Not tied-up-in-a-bow gifts, but rather the talents and abilities kind. It started with a sermon at church and the idea that we each have something to contribute that will benefit the whole.
And then, a few days later, I was reminded that the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger was approaching… and it took me back to that day so many years ago when I watched that tragedy unfold in real-time—and tried to explain to a three-year-old what happened when I didn’t understand it myself. Within a short time, we knew the end result—but for several months, we didn’t really know what happened.
Today we know… and it’s impossible to think of the Challenger without thinking of an O-ring.
An O-ring is a doughnut-shaped seal that’s used to keep fluid or air in or out of a particular space. According to Wikipedia, O-rings are one of the most common seals used in machine design because they are inexpensive, easy to make, reliable, and have simple mounting requirements. I’m always impressed by something (or someone) reliable, but otherwise, an O-ring doesn’t strike me as particularly impressive.
But in the case of the Challenger, an O-ring failed to do its job.
The end result was horrific and brought consequences still felt and experienced today, three decades later.
I guess I’ve always assumed the unreliable O-ring was large, substantial in size. Wouldn’t it have to be—to have such an impact when it failed? My assumption was wrong. Although the Challenger was an impressive 184 feet long with a 78 foot wingspan and 4.5 million pounds of heft, the O-ring that brought it down was barely over a quarter of an inch in diameter. (Source)
And I was reminded of the sermon…
We each have something to contribute that will benefit the whole.
I have something to contribute—and so do you.
It doesn’t matter
- who you are—or who your family is
- where you live
- whether you’re organized—or always losing your car keys
- if you consider yourself “religious” or not
- how much money or influence you have—or don’t
It doesn’t matter if you’re
- young or old, single or married
- overweight or “thin as a rail”
- educated or lacking in common sense
- confined to a wheelchair or drive the neighborhood carpool
- working your dream job—or dreaming of a new one
It doesn’t matter if you
- live in a mansion or live on the streets
- exercise faithfully—or faithfully avoid exercise
- are an introvert or the life of the party
- enjoy good health—or are searching for a cure
- think highly of yourself—or label yourself a failure
It doesn’t matter… because—like a tiny O-ring—we each have a role to play.
And like the O-ring… When we fail to rise to the occasion, fail to do our part, the end result will be sub-standard; perhaps even riddled with tragedy and life-long consequences.
That all sounds great, but what’s it look like in the real world where we live?
Well, I can only answer that question from personal experience. Quite honestly, it’s not a pretty picture.
When it comes to using my talents and abilities, I’ve had a lifetime of responses—already. There’s been gratitude and a willingness to share. That was on the good days. There’s also been thinking too highly of myself (pride) or looking down on others (judgment and pride). There have been times I felt inadequate but stepped out of my comfort zone (humility and trust; good responses)… but other times I felt inadequate, and I focused on myself, letting the soundtrack in my mind go negative.
Would any of these be heard in a re-run of your life?
- I can’t do that; what if I fail?
- I’m such an idiot. If people only knew…
- I should get a real job and make money; wanting to stay home is just selfish.
- I wish I could do something that really matters.
- What difference do I make anyway?
- Why don’t I have more friends?
- Why doesn’t anyone appreciate what I do?
- I deserve better than this.
Told you it wasn’t pretty.
Over the years—and still—I’m learning to catch myself more quickly when that negative soundtrack starts playing. When my inner peace turns into a funk. When Life starts being about me and the lies I’m telling myself rather than about how I’m an O-ring with something important to contribute.
I’m learning to cover those lies with labels of Truth.
- I am dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
- I am capable. (Philippians 4:13)
- I am confident. (Philippians 1:16)
- I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
- I am chosen to be fruitful. (John 15:16)
- I am gifted with power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
- I am welcome in God’s presence. (Ephesians 3:12)
And when I lose focus and start speaking lies again…
- I am forgiven. (Ephesians 1:7-8)
The O-ring… ordinary but reliable. Critical to the success of the mission.
My mission is to take a look around me and make a list of the people in my life—the precious souls gifted to me on this journey. To ask myself how I can be the best wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, friend possible to each of them. To realize that some roles I play are highly visible and “important” while others are seemingly insignificant—yet in my heart I know those are the ones most critical to the health of my family, my friendships, and my own spiritual well-being.
From experience, I know that when I take on that mission to refocus my thoughts, I’ll move away from myself and toward others, grateful for the chance to make a difference in their lives. Grateful for the opportunity to function as a reliable O-ring for them. Most days, few will see or appreciate my efforts, but that’s not important. What’s important is that I do whatever I can today to make their lives better. To be sure I tell them—and show them—how much they’re loved and appreciated by me. To encourage them so that even when they fail (and occasionally they will; we all do) I’ll still be here for them. To fill their minds—and mine—with so much positive that there will be no room for self-loathing.
What’s your mission? Who needs you to be a reliable O-ring for them?
When are you going to agree with your Creator that those gifts, abilities, talents He gave you are there for a reason? How about right now?
I’m linking to Spiritual Sundays.