An article in Popular Science discussed the different approaches taken by SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation service founded by Elon Musk, and by NASA. While NASA takes a “detailed modeling approach,” SpaceX uses a “test-to-destruction” approach. In other words, NASA creates a model for everything before real-life testing, while SpaceX works more by trial and error.
In early February 2021, SpaceX’s SN9 crashed and seemed to many like a significant setback. As the article noted, though, SpaceX considered it a “great flight” and “all in a day’s work.” They not only saw the crash as part of their learning process, they also humorously described the event as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” (RUD).
Like NASA, I try to think through what I want to accomplish and how I want to accomplish it. I plan ahead and try to anticipate the unexpected, hoping my execution happens flawlessly and the unexpected remains only an unfulfilled possibility.
Of course, that’s not how life generally plays out. No, life is certainly full of many RUD moments and events, and it’s taken me almost half a century to almost fully embrace the lessons they provide and wisdom they bring.
Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly
RUD events – the crash-and-burn, hit-you-between-the-eyes events – in life seemingly come out of nowhere.
Sickness. Death. Fire. Disappointment. Betrayal. Job loss. Identity crisis. Divorce.
My reaction to RUD events used to be withdrawal. I mentally retreated and refused to verbally process my thoughts and feelings. I also physically retreated and limited interactions with others until I didn’t feel so heavy and maybe even feel hopeful again.
The level and duration of the devastation that accompanies RUD events depends on how long it took me to refocus on Jesus. Having a routine for and habit of communing with him (i.e., developing one over the course of a lifetime) is essential in my ability to refocus quickly.
A Detailed-Modeling RUD Approach
Like SpaceX, we can learn to accept that RUD events will happen and even expect them and then use them to make us stronger and wiser. The Bible gets at this truth in many places, including:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6)
We can also use NASA’s approach for thinking and planning ahead. Scripture verifies this as well.
“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
In other words, we don’t have to live one way or the other. We can both take the RUD moments as they come while at the same time plan and prepare based on what we know.
This begins with spending time daily with God. From that, we learn to trust him and then to rely on him to not only guide our steps as we make plans but to also help us rejoice in trials. Through both working in our lives, we will progress toward perfection, and we are less devastated when life is in a season overflowing with RUD moments.