When asked, most people can name the first human to step foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong. The question of who was the second man to walk on the moon is a little more difficult, but most people over the age of thirty-five can tell you the answer is Buzz Aldrin. But can you remember the third astronaut on the historic Apollo 11 mission? The one astronaut who did not descend to the surface of the moon but remained in the command module in lunar orbit was Michael Collins.
In his book, Flying to the Moon, Collins was honest in describing his concerns and fears as he prepared for his part in this historic mission. He wrote, "On Apollo 11, we were our nation's envoys, we three, and it would have been a national disgrace if we screwed up. We would be watched by the world, and we must not fail." He added, "We knew there were a hundred close decisions and a thousand critical switch actuations facing us. A broken probe, a cracked engine nozzle, an electrical short, a crew lapse of attention, a zillion things -- and we would never make it. I really felt this pressure, this awesome sense of responsibility weighing me down, this commandment which said 'Thou shalt not screw up.'"
At the time of the mission, you would never have known that Collins had any of these concerns. During the mission, he went about his job with the greatest of precision, and the flight of Apollo 11 was an astounding success. But Michael Collins' personal reflections give us an indication of the human side of the story. What they were doing had never been done before, and sometimes all that was left was courage and faith -- faith that all the hard work and dedication of those associated with the program would be realized, and the courage to face a daunting situation alone.
Although it is not flying to the moon and back, we are facing a daunting situation today in the Covid-19 crisis. It, too, requires faith and courage. In itself, being afraid is nothing to be ashamed of. It's okay to be afraid as long as our fears don't paralyze us. The courage we need comes from the faith we have in God.
Several years ago, I performed the wedding of my friend Strat McClure to Jonathan Lake. Strat and I share birthdays during the month of August; mine is on August 25, and hers is August 26. In a Bible study once, we each revealed that we share the same life verse from the Bible, and I noted in a recent social media post that she and Jonathan have taught their young son, Charlie, to learn the same life verse which happens to come from Philippians 4:13. It's a good verse for a child to memorize and for all of us to remember during this or any time of crisis.
What is Philippians 4:13? "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Though we likely won't ever orbit the moon, we all need courage to face the challenges of life. And similar to Michael Collins, that courage begins with faith and the knowledge that we can do anything through him who gives us strength.
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas