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What We Return

Humility like the darkness, reveals the heavenly lights.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American naturalist, poet and philosopher

There is something more than gratitude I feel for those that have gone before me on the path of recovery and spiritual development. A common bond of love and reverence, I guess. I feel less alone as I traverse uncharted territory. A line from one of my favorite Ferron songs comes to mind,

"Where the lines connect but the points stay free." Ferron, "Our Purpose Here"

So, I was pretty amazed with myself when I said to my friend as we talked about both last week,

"There is nothing more attractive than holiness, and nothing more powerful than humility."

That's my perspective, and it comes after years of living, and spiritual striving. That sentence rings with simplicity, and that's how I know I've made some progress. After I said that profound statement, my mind went on a search for some examples to back it up. Just days later, moved by Neil Armstrong's funeral, I found one. That man went to the moon and walked on it for the first time. It was how he behaved when he returned that captured my attention.

Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan, who was the last man to leave footprints on the moon in 1972, eulogized Armstrong as "a national hero of unimaginable proportion" as well as "a man who, when he became your friend, was a friend for a lifetime."

Cernan and the other speakers repeatedly referred to Armstrong's preference for privacy after the moon mission. Armstrong unfailingly sought to divert attention from his own achievements to the team of hundreds of thousands who supported the Apollo effort, Cernan said,

"In Neil's mind, it was never about Neil," Cernan explained. "It was about you, your mothers and fathers, your grandparents, those of an earlier generation, who gave him the opportunity to walk on the moon. ... He always gave credit to those who just didn't know it couldn't be done."

Cernan said no one could have accepted the burden that accompanied being the first human to set foot on another celestial body with more dignity than Armstrong did. And at one point, Cernan addressed his remarks directly to the departed.

"You have now shown once again the pathway to the stars," he said. "As you soar through the heavens beyond even where eagles dare to go, you can now finally put out your hand and touch the face of God."

Neil Armstrong harnessed the power of greatness but did not keep it for himself. He spent it freely in service to others. He was an appropriate candidate because his earthly body was strong enough to contain such greatness, and allow it to pass through him. To me, that's humility, and often holiness too.

We are no longer doing missions to the moon. The missions that I hear about these days are the ones that remain unexplored by folks. The discovery of their inner being, and God within. It feels like going to the moon for them too, and that it's really the luxury of the chosen ones, whatever that means. Not true my friends; not true at all.

The first time I really heard the prayer of St Francis in recovery circles, a wonder opened me. What happened to a man that he would ask to be an instrument of God? Why was it so important in recovery to pray this way, in service to others? And, dear God, what a change from the fox hole prayers I used to hear,

"Please God, help me! If you just help me now I promise I will....",

To a prayer that says,

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Saint Francis of Assisi

Something powerful and hard to explain happened in the space between those two requests. I think it's something like touching the face of God, as Gene Cernan said. Something like that happens to all of us that bow to a power greater than ourselves to seek healing and guidance and power. Those that have gone before us, now recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body, have forged such a path. It's an internal one and it is available to everyone. I've been there, and it changed me. It's the next frontier.

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