Looking Up

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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The most recent of my daughter’s many career incarnations is an astronaut, courtesy of a thirty-second newscast of the most recent space shuttle launch that somehow made it onto our DVR. I would have erased it without a second thought if she hadn’t have been sitting next to me at the time. One minute the anchor was expounding upon the latest Hollywood scandal (at which point the volume was lowered), and the next there was the Atlantis, rocketing into the sky. It was the first time my daughter had witnessed anything of the sort, and she had the look on her face to prove it—slack-jawed, eyes bulged, breath held. It was, she said, the most magnificent thing she’d ever seen. What struck me was that I knew all about the Hollywood scandal, in which someone had done something somewhere. Not because I paid any attention to that sort of thing, but because I couldn’t help not to have heard about it. It was everywhere—on the news, on the internet, and evidently on the evening news. But the shuttle launch? I had no idea.

Going to space isn’t the big deal it once was. We send probes and satellites and people there all the time now. No biggie. The years have worn on since Neil Armstrong stepped out of that capsule and onto another world. The magic of that moment is lost to most now. I hated that. I really did. My daughter made me rewind those thirty seconds so she could watch it again. Then again. And again. I’d seen dozens of shuttle launches over the years and so watched her and not it, and I realized that the familiar was simply the magnificent that had happened over and over. “Wouldn’t it be cool to fly, Daddy?” she said. I told her that yes, it would. And that people thought so for thousands of years. They dreamed of being able to break the bonds of whatever held them down and drift free. Blissfully free. “I think that’s just…great,” she said. We sat there together, her gawking and telling me to let her watch it again, and I thought about this: There are those in the world who see humanity as inherently good. That we are born perfect and become less than so as the years go on and the world grabs hold of us. And there are also those who see us as inherently flawed, broken from the womb and living life as a search for the One who can put us together again.

Me, I’ve always been in the middle. I like the thought of life being all about beginning with a mess and trying to make something beautiful of it. Having things the other way around, starting with the beauty and ending with the mess, just seems a little depressing. Of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. But it’s hard for me to take my daughter out into the world and convince her that humanity knows what it’s doing. We’ve engineered instruments of death and disease, enslaved entire nations, and laid waste to the beauty around us. We politicize God and reduce human life to a statistic. She sees those things, I’m sure. Even at her young age she’s aware of the truths of this world, though for now she may see only their shadows. That, more than anything else, is why I rewound those thirty seconds of that shuttle launch. I wanted her to see what good we could do, too. Because yes, we’ve made war. But we’ve also made peace. And though we’ve enslaved, we’ve also set free. We’ve killed many. We’ve healed more. And we’ve taken the innumerable dreams of countless people to float amongst the stars and made them real. That is what I want my daughter to know. That sometimes the best thing she could do is to stop, look up, and wonder. That for all the bad we do, sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we do let the good in us shine through. Sometimes we do prove that the darkness in us is no more evil than the light in us is good. That the depths to which we can descend are matched only by the heights to which we can climb.

Post by Billy Coffey of Photo by Ann Voskamp of Holy Experience.