Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
This is not the type of speculative fiction story that I usually base these blog entries around. This is the true story of NASA astronaut Michael Massimino and what happened one day in 2009 when he went on a spacewalk to repair a part of the Hubble Space Telescope.
I would encourage you to go read his entire account here, but this is the gist of what happened: Massimino was tasked with removing 117 screws on an access panel so that a bad power supply unit could be replaced. He and his team trained for years to learn the task, learn the tools, and know their roles in the spacewalk cold, so that they could do the job quickly, safely, efficiently. When they finally got to Hubble and began the job, they were stopped by one screw that just wouldn't let go, in a handrail that blocked the access panel. It was the start of what seemed like a looming disaster to Mass. He couldn’t do his job, and it made him feel discouraged and alone. His spacewalk partner had his own tasks to do. No one on the shuttle had a spacesuit on, so they couldn’t come running out to give assistance. In Massimino's own words:
They couldn’t come out here and help me. And then I actually looked at the Earth; I looked at our planet, and I thought, There are billions of people down there, but there’s no way I’m gonna get a house call on this one. No one can help me.
I felt this deep loneliness. And it wasn’t just a Saturday-afternoon-with-a-book alone. I felt detached from the Earth. I felt that I was by myself, and everything that I knew and loved and that made me feel comfortable was far away. And then it started getting dark and cold.
What he didn’t realize until later, after the job was done (with a great deal of help from his team both in space and in mission control), was that he was never alone. In addition to his teammate inside the shuttle and the NASA folks on the ground, he learned later that his wife and so many other friends and family members were thinking about him at that moment. He may have been on his own, in a self-contained suit, floating in space with only a thin tether connecting him to anything else, but he was never alone.
In the article, Massimino never mentions what kind of faith he might or might not have. He did have family and friends and coworkers helping him and thinking of him and supporting him every step of the way, whether he realized it at the time or not.
I don’t always recognize the presence of God when I’m feeling abandoned in the middle of a difficult situation, either, but I am grateful for friends and family who point the way to Him and remind me that I will never be alone, no matter what.
“A View of the Earth. From the Hubble Space Telescope. Which I Nearly Broke.” by Michael Massimino, August 31, 2013. http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/a-view-of-earth. Accessed July 10, 2014.