One Small Step for Man

I wondered how close I could approach the fence without getting shot.   The beach looked deserted, but I knew better.  I’d already been checked out by a black helicopter that had buzzed over my head a few minutes earlier, and I could see at least one security camera on a tower farther inland. 

The fence itself wasn’t much to look at, just steel cables strung across weathered, wooden pylons that ran into the sea. Anyone could step through it.  It was the sign that hung on the fence that intimidated me. 

Restricted Area by Order of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Unauthorized Persons Who Enter May Be Subject To Prosecution Under 18 U.S.C. 799


Technically it said that if I crossed the fence, I may, just may mind you, be prosecuted.  Nothing definite.  All I wanted to do was stick one toe into the sand across the line and take my picture, but I was convinced I’d get my foot shot off by a sniper.   Or, heck, this was NASA we’re talking about.  They could probably just take me out with a laser.  

I wondered what Jason Bourne would do. 

But I was so close to my dream that I wanted to take another step.   I was inches away from NASA property staring at the second-to-last space shuttle that would ever leave the earth.  The Endeavour sat on her launch pad maybe a quarter of a mile from where I stood, and she was beautiful.    

I’d forgotten how enthralled I’d been as a kid with the space program until that day on the beach.  Now, here I was, a 39 year old dad, staring at the shuttle with my own eyes, flooded with all the emotions of my boyhood dreams. 

I had no idea I’d get to see the shuttle that day.  We were just taking a beach break in the middle of a Disney vacation and didn’t even know where we were going.  We just wanted ocean.  After following some vague Mapquest directions, we stumbled onto Playalynda, the beach that happened to adjoin Cape Canaveral. 

When the attendant told me we’d see the Endeavour on our way in, I nearly choked.  I’d been waiting for this day for a long time. 

I was nine years old, walking around with a head full of Star Wars movies and comic books, when the first space shuttle launched in 1981.  I can remember watching her booster rockets ignite on our little black and white TV.  It took my breath away.  

To a small town Indiana boy, the shuttle carried far more in her payload than scientific experiments.  She carried my dreams.  She carried my hope for adventure, freedom and exploring new worlds.  That day I knew I would become an astronaut. 

When you grow up in a town without a stoplight, fantasizing about new worlds comes second nature, and the shuttle represented all that was out there waiting in the world for me beyond my home.   It meant endless possibility and a future without limits. 

But somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten all of that.  I began to believe in a future made of limits and rules.  The grown up world has a way of fencing in our dreams, of intimidating us from following our hearts with signs that say, “Restricted Area.”

From deep inside of us, though, a voice beckons us to stick a toe across the fence.  It’s called child-like faith.  The Bible says there is a reason our hearts tug us toward noble, seemingly impossible dreams.  We come hard-wired with them.  Each of us was created to do great things by God, good works that He prepared for us to do long before we were even born.

As I grew older, writing replaced the shuttle as my vehicle for exploring new worlds, but for years I left that dream behind the fence too.  I wonder what dreams are behind your fence.  What deep, God-given passions lay dormant in you?  What impossible dream makes your heart beat fast? 

Maybe it’s starting your own business or picking up the guitar again.  Maybe it’s rallying relief for disaster victims.  Maybe it’s creating a beautiful, well-organized home for your family or adopting orphans from overseas or writing poetry or teaching preschoolers or something else entirely. 

I don’t know what fences may be holding you back, what signs may be intimidating you from taking a step toward your dream in faith, but I can tell you this.  God did not make us to watch our dreams from a distance.  He made us for a purpose.  He made us to get our hands dirty with our dreams.

So the astronaut thing didn’t work out, but a couple of years ago, I started writing again, and God’s given me opportunities that I’d long believed impossible – all because I worked up the courage one day to step across the fence.  I now know Neil Armstrong was wrong.  There are no small steps for man.  Every good choice we make, including the choice to bring our best contribution to the world, is a giant leap for mankind. 

The fact is that the world needs people like you to go for it and offer the rest of us the best version of yourself, the version that is fully alive and engaged in putting dreams into action.  So, what are you waiting for?  Maybe today’s your day to take a step and do what you were made to do.  Maybe today is the day your dreams take flight again.

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