10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – Liftoff! Have you ever witnessed the launch of a rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida? It is a magnificent sight!
I spent many years working as an aerospace engineer designing and testing rocket engines. When launch day arrives for a new propulsion system there is a tangible anticipation of success. After literally years of development effort everything and everyone is ready for the inaugural launch.
The countdown process is complex and exacting. There are many hundreds of sensors monitoring critical performance parameters prior to the start of the huge rocket engines. Some parts of the engines are preconditioned to cryogenic temperatures. Others are pressurized to very precise settings.
At the end of the countdown there is a moment in time when the engines explode into life. Yes, at the start of the launch the engines ignite with a controlled explosion, thrust builds quickly, and the rocket leaves the launch pad on a plume of fire accelerating rapidly into the atmosphere.
The explosive yet carefully controlled start of the engine is a critical time. A lot can go wrong with the end result being catastrophic. Likewise, it is a critical moment when we begin something for the first time. There is an anticipation of success following sometimes years of planning.
The Old Testament patriarch Abraham heard God’s call, believed God, and obeyed God on his amazing journey to the Promised Land (Genesis 11, 12). But I think that Abraham did a lot of planning and carefully considered the logistics of the trip well before leaving the familiarity of his home in Ur. He understood that the beginning of his trip was a critical event.
It is safe to say that every journey has a beginning and an ending. I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of starting well and ending well. These two events define much about our success or failure.
Starting well has many different considerations. What is necessary for some is unnecessary for others. Each start is unique in its own way. The number of church, business, and project failures that we hear about emphasizes the importance of a strong start. Don’t be pushed into starting at the wrong time with less than adequate resources!
Returning to our rocket engine analogy, it is equally crucial to safely conclude the controlled explosion of the engine at the end of its intended flight. Equally catastrophic things can happen when pressures and temperatures are not properly controlled before shutting off the flow of propellants at just the right moment.
Likewise, Abraham had much to do at the conclusion of his journey. It was not an easy road he traveled even though God was with him every step of the way. He had many people depending on him to make wise decisions, lots of equipment to repair or replace, and new surroundings to call home. Ending well is all about making sense of your situation and finding meaning in whatever happened to you and around you.
Assessing the success or failure of an event is driven a lot by how it is remembered in the future. It is important to take the time and allocate the necessary resources to understand what worked and what didn’t work, what methods or processes worked better than others, and how different people created the environment that produced the final results.
The next time you see a rocket leap off the launch pad take a moment and appreciate the importance of critical events at the beginning and ending of everything you do. There are lessons to learn. So I ask, “At this moment in time, what are you getting ready to start and what are you in the process of concluding? Do you fully appreciate that these are critical events that demand your focused attention?”