On November 20, 1980, the State of Louisiana witnessed one of the strangest and scariest man-made disasters in American history. It took place on Lake Peigneur, a shallow freshwater lake located in southern Louisiana.
Hundreds of feet below the lakebed was a massive salt dome that measured thousands of feet from top to bottom. For 61 years the Diamond Crystal Salt Company had been scouring out this massive deposit of salt leaving vast underground chambers behind. The company’s main operating shaft was located on Jefferson Island in the middle of Lake Peigneur.
Unfortunately, Texaco Oil had set up an oil drilling rig on the lake and began doing some exploratory drilling a few hundred yards off Jefferson Island. By a tragic miscalculation Texaco’s 14-inch drill penetrated the roof of the giant salt dome at the 1,300-foot level.
Immediately, water from the lake shot through the 1,300-foot-long and 14-inch wide hole into the hollowed dome below with a force ten times that of a fire hydrant. The 50-man crew immediately evacuated the drilling platform. Ninety minutes later they watched from the shore as their 150-foot derrick disappeared into the 10-foot-deep lake.
The 1,300-foot-long hole quickly widened and sucked down water at an ever-increasing rate. Soon a large vortex appeared on the surface of the lake. One fisherman narrowly escaped its suction.
The hole became so large and the whirlpool so powerful that it sucked down 11 barges and a tug boat that were moored on the lake’s surface. Soon houses on the edge of the lake, buildings, trees, and 65 acres of land were sucked down into the hole. Eventually, all the water of the lake vanished into the bottomless, thirsty pit.
Matters continued to worsen. Water, which normally flowed from the lake through a canal into the Gulf of Mexico, began to drain backwards into the empty lakebed and down into the massive sink hole. Sea water began rushing inland from the Gulf through the canal and plummeted over a 150-foot waterfall into the sinking lakebed. Two days passed before waters from the Gulf of Mexico finally filled up the vast underground chambers of the salt dome.
Gone was the shallow freshwater lake. In its place was a larger and very deep saltwater lake. Amazingly the catastrophe claimed no human lives.[i]
The vision of this strange disaster comes to mind whenever I think of the insatiable demands of the mission – or of the bottomless pit of discontent when we pursue the goal of 100% customer satisfaction.
Everyone who’s served in a support role understands what I’m talking about. We strive for excellence in doing our job and rarely get feedback – until something goes wrong. For all our labors we receive little credit, but plenty of criticism.
So you double your efforts and determine that you’re going to satisfy your customers if it kills you. It nearly does. Yet for all your efforts, the black hole of discontent only demands more and more.
No wonder burnout and discouragement are so prevalent among support personnel. The mission never goes away and only sucks down more and more of all you have to give. Nothing seems to satisfy its eternal appetite. How can anyone survive servitude to such a consuming monster?
Understand that the jobs of support, supply, and maintenance are never-ending tasks – of which we only share a portion.
They are like a relay race. We pick up the baton, run our portion of the race to the best of our ability, and pass the baton on to our successor. We pick up the work of our predecessor and faithfully run without ever crossing the finish line. Therefore, we cannot measure our success in the same way that the builders of the Golden Gate Bridge did. Unlike them, we cannot stand back and admire a finished structure, a landmark bridge that spans a great body of water.
Our success is measured in faithfulness to the never-ending task of scraping, sanding, and repainting the mighty bridge. Faithfully doing our best is the measure of our success.
Understand that success can never be measured based against what is left undone.
People in support roles will put out many fires today, only to see more pop up tomorrow. There will always be dissatisfied customers. There will always be work left undone. The mission’s appetite is never satisfied, its thirst never quenched. Recognize that such is the nature of our work. A housewife never cooks a meal to end all meals, nor does a preacher preach a sermon to end all sermons. But, if each meal and each sermon gives strength or inspiration for today – then they have accomplished their purpose and success has been achieved.
Look beyond the tedious task that presents itself, and gaze forward to the greater task that your labor supports.
No doubt you’ve heard the story of the great cathedral builder who walked among his many laborers and asked them about their work. One mason answers him, “What is there to tell you? I’m laying bricks, one brick upon another. It’s a tedious job, but it earns me a day’s wages.” But when the architect asks another mason, “and what are you doing?” the laborer answers him, “I’m building a glorious cathedral for the worship of God and the eternal salvation of sinners who will hear the gospel and believe.” Even so, you are not just turning wrenches or meeting deadlines or delivering materiel. You are defeating the forces of tyranny and building a future for the free world.
I should also say, “Look beyond your immediate supervisor here on earth to your heavenly Master, the One who has called you to your life’s task.” Your heavenly Father is mindful of your labors and will reward you for your faithfulness – and your motives.
For it is not what we do that determines if our work is sacred or secular, but why we do it.
Therefore dedicate your work to God as an offering of worship – to glorify Him – and your reward will be eternal (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-24; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, I dedicate my daily tasks to You and humbly pray for the strength, wisdom, and love to faithfully fulfill my responsibilities to serve others and to please and honor You. Amen.
[i] (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddlrGkeOzsI for more information on the Lake Peigneur disaster)