“One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong spoke those words on July 20, 1969, when he became the first person to walk on the moon. As I write this, there’s a lot of hoopla remembering that event 50 years ago. I was barely a teenager, but I remember exactly where I was that day—it was that kind of moment.
There’s this couple I know for whom that day was even more memorable. Unlike the rest of the world, their eyes were not glued exclusively to their television set. At the very moment Armstrong and Aldrin made the first human footprints on the lunar surface, their eleven-month old daughter was taking her first steps right in their own living room. With flutters in their hearts and lumps in their throats, they gazed from one set of walking to the other. They saw the astronauts plant the American flag and wander around the Sea of Tranquility thousands of miles away in space; but for them more significant was the event and adventure happening right before their eyes. In a very real sense, they were both the same thing—feeble steps; not so grand in and of themselves, but miraculous in their portent. Who’s to say which one was the greater miracle?
That’s a marvelous image: a toddler taking her first steps with men walking on the moon as a backdrop! It got me thinking—what a metaphor for those of us striving to follow Jesus Christ! Isn’t that what’s going on whenever we show love to one another: His grand event reflected in our mini-dramas? In the background is Christ on the cross, dying for the sins of the world, shedding his blood to redeem humanity, to give us life—something for all to see and be moved to tears. While in the forefront, more localized, specialized, limited in scope perhaps, are our everyday efforts to live and love in just the same way. Jesus once told a parable about the Last Judgment, when rewards and punishments will be doled out at the end of time; and He says every feeble attempt to show love to “the least of these,” is not simply doing it like Him but actually doing it for Him and to Him.
Truly living life means translating Christ’s unbelievably wonderful and sacrificial action into our own expressions of love toward one another. Whatever we do probably won’t make history or merit television coverage; it might not even be noticed. But even though small and local, our efforts to love one another reflect and shine His love into the nooks and crannies of our life with the tender intimacy that keeps the world turning. Which makes the tiny as important as the spectacular and minor transactions just as significant as major events.
I realize it doesn’t always seem to be the case. It’s hard not to get discouraged at all the pain and poverty in the world, and at how little we can about any of it. Baby steps might move the heart, but they don’t cover much ground. Yet all I have to do is what those parents did: shift my line of sight—look to the cross, where hope springs eternal and where my tiniest scratches in the dirt are writ large in my sighing, dying Savior. There’s this phrase I love: “You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the whole world for one person.” What Jesus has done for all creation, I can strive to do for somebody else. I’ll probably never walk on the moon, but I can take a giant leap or two in my neighborhood. And even if the world isn’t watching, I know God—proud Father that He is—will be tuned in, not missing a single wobbling step.