On November 9, 1979 America was brought to the brink of nuclear war.
It all began when an Airman at NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, used a training tape to test its communication systems. However, the failure of the Airman to flip a simple switch allowed the simulated “Soviet nuclear attack” to get piped into military communications systems throughout the States. As a result, the military went on full alert. “Launching keys” for ballistic missiles were drawn from their safes, inserted into launch mechanisms, and poised “at the ready.”
The National Emergency Command Post, or doomsday plane, took to the air (anticipating the destruction of Washington, DC). Fighter and bomber squadrons were alerted and some were already airborne before military commanders determined it was a false alarm. The “near catastrophe” so rattled Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev that he wrote a letter to President Carter requesting him to implement measures to prevent any further mishaps. A simple oversight had brought the earth to the threshold of destruction.
Seven months later in 1980 the crisis repeated itself when a forty-three-cent computer chip, called a multiplexer, malfunctioned. To clarify, the inexpensive piece of hardware was a critical link in the Strategic Air Command’s communication system. When this tiny item failed NORAD unwittingly sent forth the false alarm of another Soviet nuclear attack. Fortunately, Air Force officers detected the false alarm and averted a global disaster.i
In our high tech society, it is frightening that so much can hinge on such “little” things. Yet these examples remind us that it is sometimes very appropriate to “sweat the small stuff,” especially when it concerns our responsibilities and the task to which God has called us. God has put no one on this planet whose life and contribution is without significance. What we do or fail to do—no matter how small–can have a profound impact. Nor should we ever believe that any of us is a useless appendage or that our life doesn’t count. Each of us is a critical link in the chain of life and God’s plan for humanity.
Everyone Plays a Critical Role
In the Scripture, the apostle Paul compares the community of believers to the interdependent parts of the human body. He explains that every part of the body—from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot—is absolutely essential to the health and proper function of the whole person (1 Corinthians 12:14–25). Certainly, the same is true in all of life. No man or woman is a vestigial organ, a part that no longer serves a useful purpose. Every one of us fills a critical role. Maybe Benjamin Franklin was right when he wrote,
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
Dear Lord, help me to understand my importance to Your plan and to the good of my community. May I be found faithful in the work You have called me to do. Amen.
Examples from Modern Marvels: Engineering Disasters, Volume 1, The History Channel.