Robert Goddard (1882-1945) may not be a name most of us are particularly familiar with, at least by name, but all of us are familiar with his work. You see, Goddard is considered by many to be the American pioneer of modern rocketry. He was a great scientist and an amazing inventor, the first to launch a rocket using liquid fuel. His scientific research and ingenious inventions made space travel possible for the world. Today, a friend of mine is working on a project to send a man to Mars (yes, people are really working on sending a man to Mars!) and his project is built on the foundational work of Goddard.
During his lifetime, Goddard didn’t seem to receive much of the appreciation or admiration that his scientific record deserved. But over the years, a great deal of research has revealed a lot about him, and his life. One story in particular really struck me as I learned about this amazing man. (Incidentally, if you haven’t been to the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space you must make an effort to see it in DC!)
In his later years, Robert was asked what drove him to succeed. A lot of people had similar ideas about rocketry, but they were dismissed by the public and scientific community at large, and most of them gave up their pursuit of the sky. But Goddard never gave up. When asked, he would relate the following story.
As a young boy, Robert’s parents supported his curiosity and even purchased him basic scientific equipment to encourage his growth in the sciences. Through his experimentation and study, he became enamored with the sky. Out behind the family barn, a tree had grown strategically to give Robert a glorious view of the sky, and from an early age he tried to get as close he could to the stars.
When Goddard first climbed the tree, he saw the night sky in extraordinary fashion, but he wasn’t at the top of tree. The next time he climbed, he found a way to go just a little bit higher and through his effort discovered an even better view of the sky. Each time he got to the tree he took the same approach–climb just a little higher than the day before. Eventually, Robert reached the top of the tree and the best view in orchard.
In the same way, he tested his theories and rockets with the same goal: to climb a little higher with each new launch. Little by little, Goddard reached the top of the tree and little by little, his rockets catapulted men into space.
The past few months in Overboard Ministries could not be described as rocketing to the stars. At times it feels like we’re more grounded than flying, but this principle from Goddard’s life encourages me to press on: just a climb a little higher today than we were yesterday.
While the Apostle Paul probably didn’t have rocketry in mind when he wrote Philippians 3:14, I think he had the same principle in mind: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” You see, we can’t achieve in one day, all that God has called us too, but each day, we can take steps that bring us closer to the goal(s) set before us.
In Ephesians 2:10 Paul wrote, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God’s plans and goals for us require our commitment, our passion, and a willingness to press on one day at time, seeking to move closer and closer to the goal with each day. Some days are difficult and painful, some are slow and plodding, but the goal is the same: press on toward’s God’s calling, doing what He has put in front of us to do.
So the past few months have been hard, but I’m clinging to the words from Paul and the life lesson from Goddard: pressing on just one day at time, trying to climb a little higher each day. Sometimes that climb requires lots of research and preparation, while other times it demands courage and bold action. While each little action may seem insignificant, combined, they propel us further along the path towards God’s dreams for us, and that makes each step worth it.
Take the steps in front of you now, and remember, climb just a little higher today, the view will be worth it.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!