Consider we are traveling around the world from New York City back to New York City, with a compass pointing due east. If we are off by just one degree, then we end up landing in Montreal Canada instead. An uncalibrated compass has our arrival greeting party in the wrong city, as well as the wrong country.
If we are overseeing the creation of electricity and our process only allows the water to get to 211 degrees, then we are making extremely hot water but not steam. Without steam, we can’t power a turbine to generate electricity. That misalignment in our process creates city wide blackouts and power failures.
An Olympic Archer knows even a smidge of tarnish on the arrow will cause it to fly ever so slightly off course and be the difference between a Gold Medal and a disappointing finish. A spiraling football is thrown so that it spins tightly around its axis as it travels through the air. If the nose of the ball sways ever so slightly from this axis, it creates a minor wobble, which causes drift that can be the difference between a touchdown or an interception.
The definition of ‘miss the mark’ is to fail in achieving one’s aim – arrive in New York City, produce electricity, hit a bullseye, or throw a touchdown pass. These “misses” are the result of the smallest of deviations and can have significant consequences. In our lives, small decisions, which at the time seem insignificant, can lead us to missing our desired outcome. Spending an extra $2 a day on fancy coffee amounts to just $730 a year, not a big deal. But $730, if saved at age 24, could be an extra $50,000 at retirement age. A calorie differential between consumption and expending of just 500-1000 calories per day can be 25-50 pounds over a six-month period.
In 1962, Decca Records missed the mark. They were looking for a “British Beat” group to compete with the emerging American Rock n Roll scene. They auditioned two young bands at their studios in London, deciding to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. The Tremeloes proved to be a very talented band, had a successful career, and are still performing today. The band they passed on was a four-piece outfit known as The Beatles. The decision was based on the minor point of location – the Tremeloes were from the London area, making them more accessible than the Liverpool-based Beatles.
We can hit the target, but still miss the market. Although it wasn’t New York City, it was the eastern seaboard of North America. Being aimed in the right direction is not good enough. I have had customers report their unhappiness despite delivering what I said I would. Hitting the target but missing the mark only shows us how much we need to adjust or improve. The Marines have a motto – “Aim small, miss small” – aim for a shirt button and hit the torso. Harvey Penick, the great golf instructor, taught to aim for the flag and not just the green. Remember, it is the one who consistently hits the mark who wins the prize.
We don’t arrive in disappointing lives because we didn’t try. We end up there because all we did was try. At one time, we were likely headed in the right direction and on mark, but a deviation occurred and because the mentality was to “try,” we settled and missed our ultimate mark. We were happy to hit the target.
The word “sin”, as it appears in Scripture, comes from the Greek word Hamartia or the Hebrew word Hata, which both mean “to miss the mark.” In the days of the early church, the word was used in archery and spear throwing to note a person missed the center of the target, they erred, or “hamartia-ed.” The word occurs 220 times in the Old Testament, and 37 times in the New Testament. Including St. Paul’s usage in Romans 3:23 where he says, “For all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.”
Being a Christian is about being transformed into the same image as Jesus. God expects that, over time, we will learn to consistently hit His mark. Hitting close to the mark, is good, but is not what He is expecting of us. Hitting the target, but missing the mark only shows us how much we need to grow, to hit the sweet spot with God and His righteousness.
Matthew 7:21-23 sheds some light on this: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evil doers.’ Those who did many things in Jesus’ name were shooting at the target, but they missed the mark. As a result, He said He did not know them and sent them away.
Our responsibility is to continuously strive to improve our aim by imitating Jesus and allowing God to calibrate our compass, align our processes, and remove the tarnish of our arrow to hit His mark and move His kingdom along.