Back in the days when the USA was sending astronauts to the moon in Apollo space craft, the Apollo 13 crew came within a whisker of failing to return safely. Scheduled as the third mission to walk on the lunar surface, an explosion in the oxygen tanks not long after entering space placed them in extreme jeopardy, requiring ingenuity and flexibility to enable a safe return. When all was said and done, it was revealed that the fault which created the high drama was with a small part manufactured more than three years before the crew had been chosen for the flight. In the midst of all the arrangements of flight manifests, weather watch, training and selection of astronauts, it was an almost insignificant piece of equipment which brought it all undone.
How many people today are waiting for their “big break” - the new career opportunity, the ‘big idea’ which will launch a new business, the great windfall (Tattslotto) which will provide opportunity to really fulfil potential? When Australian basketballer Andrew Bogut was taken in the first round of the NBA draft last week, providing him a guaranteed income in excess of $15m over the next three years, more than one person was heard to say, “I’d take that for one season.” Yet maybe it is not the “big break” that we need.
Life transformations mostly occur on the basis of things much smaller: as with the small unseen ring in Apollo 13’s tanks. James speaks of the power of the human tongue and of a small rudder to steer a great ship (James 3). Jesus highlighted a woman who gave two small coins, and utilized the lunch of a small boy to feed a crowd: each of them a small offering with significant impact.
The small opportunities within our grasp are those which have the greatest power to transform our lives: seemingly innocuous opportunities, often hidden by their inconvenience or simplicity. Who can appreciate the power of time spent in prayer? Of a small act of mercy for another? Of time given to a loved one, or even a stranger? Of an hour spent reading? Or volunteering? Or in practice? In silent meditation and reflection?
Great changes are made with small commitments. Great deeds are undertaken with small steps. Images of God’s kingdom emerge through the mustard seed, the sparrow, and the hair on our head.
The challenge is not to look for the ‘great opportunity’ but to be faithful in the small ones.
July 3, 2005