Jim Lovell wanted to walk on the moon. That was his dream. After orbiting the moon as part of the Apollo 8 mission, Jim watched with envy as Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong planted his feet and the flag of his country on the moon. Two missions later, after a series of strange events, it was Lovell’s turn.
And somewhere in space, an accident that happened before that rocket ever took off destroyed his dream and put him and his crew in jeopardy.
We Lost the Moon
Before the Apollo 13 rocket ever took off, a defective valve was installed on one of the rocket’s oxygen tanks. The defect went unnoticed for years—until the fateful moment when pilot Jack Swigart flipped a switch in the Apollo 13 command module. Suddenly, that defect announced itself, exploding in the command module and sending it wildly out of control, in danger of being completely destroyed.
Long before you or I were born, before we began our own pursuit of what we want out of life, a fatal defect was placed within mankind. The Bible tells the story in Genesis 3, and it is a story of humanity choosing to disobey God and break our relationship with Him. That brokenness became the default setting in every person born since that day, and it hides itself in our hearts until we are old enough to act on it.
Often, that sinfulness comes to light when we’re chasing what we want. As we push for our own way, we come to realize that our pursuit of our goals sets us against God. When that happens, our sin explodes in us and we begin to understand that we are out of God’s will. Suddenly, everything comes into question: who we are, what we really want, and what we will are willing to do.
In the movie, after the Apollo 13 is damaged and Lovell’s team has to make sacrifices to simply stay alive, Tom Hanks (as Lovell) utters a heartbreaking line that describes our reality: “We lost the moon.”
As human beings, sin has cost us our relationship with God and often costs us our dreams and relationships. When we become aware of what we’ve lost we come face to face with the next big truth about our lives.
We Are Powerless to Get Home
As Lovell’s crew stabilizes their Apollo spacecraft enough to orbit around the moon, they are faced with a grim reality: though they are temporarily safe, their future is in doubt. Because the damage sustained to the Apollo capsule, there is no way for the three of them to get home. As they look out of the Apollo’s windows and gaze on the planet Earth, they can see and sense the chasm between where they are and where they really want to be.
Without help, they will remain forever separated from their ultimate goal: home.
We find ourselves in the same place, spiritually speaking. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Just like the Apollo 13 crew, we are separated from where we truly belong: at home with God our Father. And just like the astronauts, our fate is equally grim: in Romans 6:23, Paul reminds us that “the wages of sin is death.”
So, what hope do we have?
Mission Control Made a Way
On Earth, the men and women at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston were feverishly working on the problems facing their Apollo 13 crew. Pilots were trying to figure out the correct steps to make sure their spacecraft could get them home while engineers struggled with how to build a C02 filter that could keep the crew from being poisoned by their own breathing. The Mission Control team worked day and night, pushing themselves to their breaking point, all in an effort to provide a way of rescue for Jim Lovell and his crew.
The Bible tells us that the same is true of God: Romans 5:6 says that “when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (sinners like us).” While we struggle with our sin and separation from God, He has already provided a way to close the sin gap between us and bring us safely home.
That Way is through the life, death, and resurrection of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6 (NIV)
The sin gap we couldn’t close through good works, or good thoughts, or good intentions, Jesus closed with His sacrifice on the cross. He worked on our behalf to provide the way for anyone who would believe in Him to not die separated from God, but be restored to God with eternal life:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)
What Will You Do?
The astronauts aboard Apollo 13 had a choice: they could accept the help of Mission Control or reject it. You face the same choice: you can accept what Jesus Christ has done for you, or you can reject it. The question comes down to what you really want.
Jim Lovell wanted to see his loved ones again. The man who once wanted nothing more than to plant his feet on the moon shifted his perspective, desiring nothing more than to plant his feet on planet Earth. He and his crew, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigart did what Mission Control asked, and on April 17, 1970, they splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, only four miles away from their rescue ship, the USS Iwo Jima.
How about you? What do you want?
Do you want to return home, to a restored relationship with God?
Do you want to “splashdown” in the arms of God’s forgiveness?
It’s possible. All you have to do is ask. You can pray something like this:
“Jesus, I am a sinner. My sin has separated me from You, and from God the Father. I cannot return home on my own. I believe that You paid the price for my sin on the cross, and bridged the gap between me and Father God. I accept your offer of forgiveness and restoration, and I commit to follow you all the days of my life. You are my Lord and Savior! Amen.”