One Little Step

The USS Constitution

I once watch a showing of the TV series “What History Forgot” which told the fascinating story about the fabled USS Constitution, a 19th Century American warship affectionately called “Old Ironsides.” During the 1812 conflict between Britain and America, the crew of the Constitution sighted what appeared to be several American ships blockading a harbor. Overnight the ship joined her supposed allies, only to find in the morning that she had closed up with five enemy British vessels.

The worst thing was that there was no wind, making it impossible to sail away again. With the Constitution in deep danger, her captain had to come up with another way of moving. For two days he and the crew crept slowly away from the British ships by sending an anchor ahead in one of the ship’s lifeboats, dropping it, and then using the capstan to pull the ship towards safety. In this fashion, hour after hour the ship inched ever-so-slightly away from the enemy. The arduous work of pulling up anchors from the bottom of the bay, loading them into small boats, rowing impossibly heavy boats toward open sea, wrestling the anchors overboard and towing the ship toward anchor must have been an excruciating and mind-wracking ordeal for the crew – and especially with the enemy so close.

The opposing captains soon realized what the Constitution was doing and employed the same tactic in pursuit. But the American ship had widened the gap just enough that, when wind finally returned, the British were unable to catch her.

In Sydney Smith’s encouraging words, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can.” The crew of the Constitution did what little they could, though it may have seemed almost useless at the time. 

Maybe you feel as if you are stuck – dead in the water. Maybe all you can do is barely move the ship of your life an inch at a time. Maybe it feels as if you are getting nowhere. And maybe it seems that the almost imperceptible movement forward is the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

But will you do nothing because you can only do a little? If one tiny step is all you can take, will you take it today?

Grace and Peace

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