The famed reconnaissance aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird, was a maintenance nightmare. On the ground and in the protected confines of the hangar, the SR-71 routinely leaked hydraulic fluid, oil, and fuel by the buckets! One Airman who used to work on the Blackbird testified that the SR-71 would typically leak sixteen gallons of fuel in an hour! On the ground – where it was safe – the SR-71’s skin was so noticeably wrinkled in places, that gaps formed through which fuel would literally spray forth.
How could such a machine even qualify as an aircraft? How could it hope to fly, much less survive the extremes of high-altitude flight (85,000 feet), and sustained high speed, (2,200 mph – over three times the speed of sound)? One might easily reason, “If it’s having such difficulty surviving the safe environment of the hangar, then it doesn’t stand a chance in actual flight.”
The SR-71 was custom-made for such adverse conditions. There was nothing weak about this masterpiece of its mastermind creator, Kelly Johnson. Of its frame, 93% consisted of titanium steel and was purposely built to allow for expansion. This is because its surface would heat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit as it sped faster than a high-powered rifle bullet.
As strange as it might sound the SR-71, that proved so miserable in the safety of the hangar, was spectacular in flight. For thirty-two years (1966 –1998) the Blackbird flew over Soviet and other enemy airspace, gathering tons of critical intelligence. But not a single SR-71 was lost to enemy fire. It routinely outran every interceptor and surface to air missile launched against it and always returned successful in its mission. To this day it still holds speed and altitude records for airplanes.
Strength Through Challenges
As I think about this marvelous plane, it reminds me of people in history who fared poorly in growing up, despite the safety and nurturing care of their parents.
Yet these same people rose to every crisis and thrived in the most hellish circumstances. Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child who showed little promise of doing anything significant in life. Yet when he was saddled with the responsibilities and challenges of leadership – as Governor of New York and as President of the United States – he excelled! George S. Patton, Ulysses S. Grant, and many other successful military commanders, had far greater difficulty dealing with “normalcy” and ease than with the pressures of commanding armies in war. Tragedies, crises, and hard times seemed to reveal their hidden greatness.
This is because many people, like the historical men mentioned and like the SR-71, are made for adversity and challenges. So, whether you are the parent of a high-maintenance child or you are the high-maintenance person, don’t be discouraged. In an environment of nurturing and ease many people flounder and show little apparent promise for success. But challenges will energize them, stretch them, and give them purpose. The tough times will reveal their God-given attributes and strengths.
Steps of Greatness
So, never gage your potential for success on how well you perform in the classroom or in a safe and nurturing environment. Do not fall for the flawed logic that says, “If I’m so miserable, self-doubting, and unfit when things are safe and easy, how can I ever hope to succeed in tough times?”
In reality, you were purpose-made by God for tougher times and for greater things. Stop avoiding challenges and responsibilities. They are your friends and will be the steps by which you rise to greatness. “Ships in harbor are safe,” wrote John Shed. “But that is not what ships are for.” Heed the words God spoke to Joshua: “Have I not commanded you; Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed! For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Dear Father in heaven, please take my hand and guide me on this journey. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit and make me equal to every challenge. Through all my adversity draw me closer to You, O God. Amen.