When I look up at your skies,
at what your fingers made—
the moon and the stars
that you set firmly in place—
what are human beings
that you think about them;
what are human beings
that you pay attention to them?
You’ve made them only slightly less than divine,
crowning them with glory and grandeur. – Psalm 8
In 1962 I was a six-year-old English kid who’s attention seldom wandered far from the closest soccer ball. Then John Glenn climbed into a tin can strapped to the top of a massive rocket, and became the first American to orbit the earth. Since then he’s been one of my heroes.
Glenn, of course, was one of the original “Mercury 7” astronauts – the troupe who became celebrity personifications of America’s wanderlust for space. For me, John Glenn became the poster child for adventure. And – unlike so many of our pop-culture icons – he went on to live a fully engaged life of creativity, service, and joy, guided by his faith, faithful to his family, and committed to his country.
Thirty-six years later, Glenn returned to space in the shuttle Discovery. At seventy-seven years of age he re-upped his hero status by reminding me that growing old is simply one more opportunity to live like we mean it, constantly living forward, refusing to give in to the muted expectations of a culture that too often confuses youth with relevancy, and aging with expiration.
So today, after a ninety-five year journey here on this terrestrial orb, John Glenn is finding his footing in a new dimension, a reality that his Soviet counterpart Yuri Gagarin tried to dismiss when he reported not seeing God during his historic journey into space.
I’d like to think that Glenn and Gagarin are comparing notes again. As for me, I credit the faith, vision, imagination, courage, and commitment of people like John Glenn with helping me to understand how unfathomably deep, and wide, and complete our Universe is; and at the same time how unimaginably deep, and wide, and complete the Creator’s reach is in terms of love, and of acceptance, and of promise.
Well of course this is the message of Christmas. Just that, this year, I believe there is another bright star pointing the way.
Peace, and promise – DEREK