Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Communion On The Moon

I was born on July 3rd 1969. It was a monumental year in human history, something for which my birth had no connection. Nonetheless I can recall a childhood where my mother liked to tell people that the day I returned from the hospital was the day that Neil Armstrong first set foot on the surface of the moon. Any human with access to a television had his eyes fixed on that television on that day, oblivious to the fact that yours truly took up residence in a little house in the small Australian town of Chinchilla at the very same time.

The recent death of Neil Armstrong has been a sobering reminder that the mightiest of men are still but dust. Time waits for no man and Neil Armstrong was no exception . . . and neither am I.

Several years ago I was asked to name the five people I would most want to meet. Neil Armstrong was on that list. Not only because of his fame, but also because of his subsequent obscurity. As one reporter said back in 2009:

He could have raked in millions through endorsements and personal appearances. Courted by kings, praised by politicians, he could have signed book and film deals telling of his amazing story.

Instead, he became a virtual recluse who uses a fake name to receive his mail and refuses to talk about his incredible life.

This is Neil Armstrong, who first walked on the Moon and uttered one of the world's best-known phrases: "That's one small step for  man; one giant leap for mankind."

Armstrong returned 40 years ago this month from his Apollo 11 mission to a hero's welcome and offers to cash in on his fame.

But today, even among locals in the small town of Indian Hill, Ohio, few know him as the man who made history by taking the first steps on another world.

The 78-year-old leads a fiercely secretive existence.

Local hairdresser Marx Sizemore claimed he was warned not to bother Armstrong with questions when he became a customer.

"He's a very withdrawn individual. I cut his hair for five years and he never even mentioned that he was Neil Armstrong," he said.

"I knew who he was, though, because the salon owner had told me. I was warned that he doesn't like to talk about it.

The only time we ever spoke about the Moon landing was when I asked him about it once. I had to initiate the conversation. I was born a week after he walked on the Moon so I told him that to see if he would start talking.

But he barely reacted and just looked down."

"He was more interested in talking about golf. I think he's a private person who can't stand to be the centre of attention." 

Neil Armstrong has now left this earth for the final time as somewhat of an enigma. I remain intrigued as to how his unique experiences affected him. I sometimes wonder if Paul's words to the church in Rome were echoed as he travelled into the surrounding cosmos:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

I do not know how Neil Armstrong reacted to an encounter with God's glorious creation on a far more profound level than most men ever will. But I am greatly encouraged by a little known fact concerning the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 that may surprise you . . .

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