Monday, July 20, 2015

From the Earth to the Moon

Forty-six years ago today, I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday.  It was a hot humid day in Chicago. And for some reason, I had the evening off from my job.  My brothers and I took refuge in the basement where it seemed all the cool air in the house had hidden. We turned on our black and white television to see what was on. The dogs all stretched out themselves on the linoleum tile in an effort to cool off.

And suddenly on the screen was Neil Armstrong in a huge moonsuit taking bounding steps on the surface of the moon, as if an awkward dancer at a junior high party.

It was not some low budget science fiction movie. A man was walking on the moon.  "How many things have been denied one day, only to become realities the next!"  stated author Jules Verne in his novel From the Earth to the Moon, which was written remarkably in 1865.

We needed that celebration that summer of 1969 more than we could know, that ray of moonlight in a very dark year. Our country was knee deep in a miry bog of trouble and bad news on all sides.  Just a year before, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were each assassinated.  Deep tension exploded in big cities and small towns over civil rights. People marched in the streets. Sit ins and protests against the VietNam War simultaneously rocked the nation.  Even on the high school campus across the street from our house, student unrest kept everyone on edge.  The war was escalating.  My brother had just graduated from high school. What he could be doing this next year hung on a lottery that no one wanted to win.

Death dominated the headlines.  People were so afraid.  How could our country make it through this desperation?

Wandering over from the washer and dryer, my grandmother hobbled across and sat next to me.  "To think that I went from covered wagon to seeing a man walk on the moon," she declared.  This old woman had survived the pain of stillbirth, early widowhood, the Great Depression, two world wars, fifty years of rheumatoid arthritis, and not a dime to her name.

And yet, she exuded joy more than anyone I have ever known.  "Sometimes you just have to trust the LORD," she told me on more than one occasion, "even when you don't understand."  The radical hope of Christ abounded in her.

That is how she walked through desperate times to the other side.

And so, I was the one doing laundry today, now a grandmother myself, not quite as old and not hobbling as much.  I celebrate that the moon is still there, shining down every evening.  We also live in desperate times. And we will make it through this too.

The moon is just a reminder
           of who God is,
faithful and real.

Thus says the LORD,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon
    and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar --
            the LORD of hosts is His name.

                          Jeremiah 31. 35

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