Falling Short

A little incident at work last night caused an interruption to my normally uneventful evening. I had to make a trip down to the plant to help my shift technicians troubleshoot a fairly complicated, but totally unique problem. It seems as though the outside lighting and the internal office fluorescents were blinking off and on in an almost Morse Code-like pattern; they could have been set to music by the Trans-Siberian orchestra and the effect would have been complete.

Before I delve into the mysterious optical display and the causes thereof, let me explain by telling you that no amount of money is spared to make our electrical systems in the facility state of the art. I take no little credit for it being that way as I am the Electrical Engineer in charge of the site. We use only modern and IEEE certified equipment. Our computers are always the latest/greatest that the technical world has to offer. We are redundant in our maintenance of anything that revolves around the flow of electrons. To hedge our bets, once a year we have an IR scan performed on all production equipment specifically focusing on our big motors - looking for ‘hot spots’ and loose connections that could cause us an issue. Every whim of a problem is researched, each voltage sag or spike is documented, and steps are taken to insure reliability. You get my drift here…

The big panel boards that feed gut-wrenching amounts of electrical current to massive, thousand-horsepower production lines were not the problem. The huge electrical loads from hundreds of low-bay lighting components in both buildings were deemed perfectly functional by our checks. In the end, a tiny panel in a tucked away closet that powered only smallish light fixtures in an office, minimal when compared to the giant motors on the floor, proved to be the culprit. A small breaker, a victim of age and improper installation more than ten years ago, had melted into the panel. This dropped one leg of the three-phase voltage and the whole house of cards came tumbling down. It was a true ‘for want of a nail’ scenario. Because of the incident, this morning I am writing a report of what went wrong and how we can best prevent it from happening again in the future. It’s a tall task, I tell you. There is no way to cover everything that could conceivably go wrong in any given circumstance, especially in a facility of this size.

I tried to not be overly technical in the above paragraphs and I hope you are still reading. I was thinking about how the scenario lends itself to a discussion of life this morning and how it all plays out when we find ourselves facing eternity. We do our best in life to do the right things, the best things. We go to church. We donate to charity on occasion. Some of us teach Sunday School or sing in the choir. We don’t cheat on our wives and we do our best to be a perfect parent for our children. We perform on our jobs and earn our pay. We avoid the traps associated with alcohol and drugs. In fact, we take every step deemed necessary for those seeking to find His will, hoping that in the end we will measure up. Somehow we will make the grade or fit the bill. Ask anyone on the street if they think they are a ‘good person’ and most will reply that they are, and if that is not their response they will usually say ‘I hope so'. We don’t want to be ‘bad people.’ None of us do.

But we can cross the T’s and dot all of the I’s in life, covering all of the so-called bases before we reach our own demise, and we will still miss the mark. Paul put it a lot better than I can when he penned in Romans, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It is not a bad thing to want to be the best person in life you can possibly be. At the very least, it can add up to a great eulogy when your time is done here on earth. But no matter what we do, no matter what acts of kindness and thoughtfulness we perform, it will still not be enough. We’ll always miss the mark - in the end it will be some little thing that we overlooked and missed along the way. Paul carries it further in Titus: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” We must depend on His salvation. We must accept Him and the price He paid for us on the cross so long ago.

You can’t make allowances for every problem that may arise in either technology or the sciences, even when your job depends on doing just that. Something unusual and unplanned-for will always sneak up on you when you least expect it. But even more so, you can’t depend on living a perfect life when eternity is at stake. Both situations call for Grace; the understanding of a boss in the first case, and the love of a Heavenly Father for the far more important one that deals with eternity.

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