There is a story told of a young Naval Academy graduate and his very first time in charge of getting his ship out of the port and onto its voyage. It was his biggest chance yet in his career to showcase his talents and skill and promise. He did his task so efficiently he established a new record for getting a naval ship underway. He knew what he was doing. He was in charge. He was a leader!
As he stood basking on the deck with the wind in his hair, a sailor approached him with a message from their captain.
The message read, “My personal congratulations upon completing your underway preparations exercise according to the book and with amazing speed. In your haste however, you have overlooked one of the fundamental rules — make sure the captain is on board before you leave.”
Ouch! One might call that a minor mistake.
It was, of course, a major mistake. But if so, then it’s one many of us make many a time.
If I remember correctly, it was Dr. Gerald May, a Christian psychiatrist, who I first heard say that the opposite of love is not hate, but efficiency. Efficiency is our striving for perfection. It is our working long hours to get ahead and making sure everyone sees how competent and successful we are. It is our working hard to cover up any mistake or flaw others might see and always looking over our shoulders to see who is watching.
Becoming so wrapped up in looking good and even in being good causes us to sacrifice relationships. Efficiency shuts out love and leaves the captain off the ship.
The naval story is a reminder to us all: Relationships are more important than efficiency. They are more important than what we mistakenly call success. In fact, love, our relationships, ought to be our very definition of success.
Jesus was once asked what was the most important thing in life. He was asked to name, out of all the things God told us to do, which was the top of the list. And Jesus’ answer was clear: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22.
Here are questions that I must continually ask myself. Am I becoming closer to my spouse than ever before? Am I loving my children more and more each day? How well am I treating my friends? How well do I treat strangers? Am I walking with my God?
Hard work should be honored. Our skills have value and learning new ones ought to be treasured. But they are not the greatest treasures and we must not sacrifice the most important things to get them.
My true worth and success are not dependent on how efficient I run my ship. They are dependent on who is on board my ship.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” I John 4:7
Rick Cupp is minister at Kenai Fellowship. Sunday worship at 11 a.m. Posted live on Facebook.