Are you familiar with the cruise ship analogy? You know the one, a course correction for a cruise ship has to happen slowly, they can't turn on a dime. A slight change in the rudder (assuming a cruise ship works like a regular boat), a blast from the side propulsion jets or whatever they're called, allows the ship to slowly start changing course and over time the ship gets into the correct position to head in its new direction.
I've heard this analogy related to large organziations, buisnesses, one's personal life and various other scenarios. While I'm not a sailor by trade and really don't even like the water, I dig this analogy. I dig it because I enjoy movement, even small incremental movement. The thought of a massive organization beginning to see a shift in priorities, values and behavior is inspiring.
I was facilitating a Bible study on the topic of, "The Church" with a small group of young adults in which there was much discussion on the state of the church, the concerns over the current church, the future of the church, etc. What I noticed was that we were repeatedly using phrases like...
All of our talk was centered around some amorphous, unnamed thing that was responsible for the current state of things. In the midst of the conversation someone even brought up the cruise ship analogy. We all agreed that change within the church would take time and couldn't be accomplished overnight. In that moment I was struck by a truth that is often overlooked when people discuss needed change in the church.
We tend to downplay our involvement and responsibility for that change. No one is ever interested in discussing what's really needed to see this incemental shift begin, especially if it involves us doing something different than what we're comfortable with.
In the context of our discussion on the church, this truth is even more relevant considering that the church isn't the church without the people. The people are the church. I imagined in my minds eye, and attempted to illustrate on my white board, a singular road that comes to a fork with paths headed in different directions. What's required for a large organization (the church or otherwise) to begin to see a shift in priorities, values and behavior has everything to do with the individuals in that church beginning to choose the same direction at the fork in the road.
If every other person chooses a different direction at the fork in the road no progress will be made. The organization will flounder in busyness and activity while never progressing towards a common goal. It's only when every person begins to consistently choose the same direction at the fork in the road that a noticeable shift will be observed at the larger level.
We give only lip service to our desire to see our churches become more effective in sharing the Gospel, more helpful to the hurting world around us and more empowering to those who darken our doorways when we fail to own our part of the change.
Things can change but that starts with you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Imagine for a moment that your life is made up of cogs. You know what a cog is right? One of those gears with the little teeth all around them. When you place them together they can begin moving one another. Turning one on this side will also turn one on the far side because of the way that all of those cogs fit together.
Now imagine that there are different sized cogs that make up your life. There are the really big cogs, perhaps at the top that really define who you are and what you're doing with your life. These bog cogs may be your career, your marriage, your personality, your fitness, etc. Underneath these large cogs are medium sized cogs that help set the direction for the largest cogs of your life. These medium sized cogs may be things like your time management, who you associate with, what your hobbies are, etc. Lastly, imagine with me that there are even smaller sets of cogs at the very bottom. These little tiny cogs may be things that seem insignificant but are pretty important. These tinest cogs may be things like what you're doing right now, what time you plan on getting up tomorrow morning, what you choose to watch or listen to, that comment that you're thinking about making, the conversation that you don't want to have but know that you must, etc.
At first, these tiny cogs seem like they don't have much impact on the ultimate course of our lives. We sometimes even slip into ignoring these tiny cogs because they feel like such a waste. Why bother with decisions that don't really make a big difference in my life? Why spend time dealing with something so small when I have so many big decisions to make? We forget about the tiny cogs and focus all of our energy on the big cogs. We try to map out a direction that we want the big cogs to move in but it's really tough to get those big cogs moving. We strive and we struggle and we toil and in the end we never really make much progress. Why?
Allow me to suggest that you've been ignoring the tiny cogs of your life. If you want to see change in your life, in your family or in your organization, start with the tiny cogs. Start by setting a new direction for your daily habits, start by better managing your margins, start by going to bed earlier, start by getting up earlier, start by changing your language, start by changing the little cogs first.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me." That "daily" word communicates to me that the finest cogs are the most important.
Remember, the big cogs always turn more freely and in our preferred direction when the little cogs are moving in the right direction first. Too often we attempt to turn the ship of our lives in a new direction before we've alerted the deckhands, notified the engine room or even put our hand on the steering wheel. Start small, start now, start tiny.