I watched the full moon rise earlier this month, the quiet lake shimmering in its glow. It brought back a memory of our family gathered around our old black and white Magnavox television to watch in awe as men’s footprints first touched the moon’s powdery surface. “That’s one small step for man”, Neil Armstrong said, “one giant leap for mankind.” I’ve heard those prints remain, undisturbed these many decades later.
It is tempting to believe that we will be remembered long after we are gone. All of us want to make our mark on the world that lasts like those lunar footprints. We long to know that our lives matter. But the reality is that memories dull and drift away through the years, people move on and a generation passes in the blink of an eye.
But there are intangible marks we leave on the surface of a soul that survive long after we are gone. The love we give can leave a legacy unseen, yet the ripples continue to spread. Sometimes one encouraging word can draw a dream into the light. Sometimes a hug can lend just enough strength to allow someone to reach for healing. “Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven”, Jesus said, “where moth and rust cannot destroy.” Those treasures are the imprints we leave on the souls of others.
All of us are formed in many ways by the people around us, for good and for bad. Those imprints linger our whole lives long, sometimes driving us to the psychiatrist’s couch, sometimes to an addiction, sometimes to hate. Or they spur us on to love, to compassion, to reflecting, like the moon, the glow of a greater light.
It’s often one small footprint, likely forgotten, that becomes one giant leap of hope in the life of another.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote,
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time; –
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.”
These lives we live are an offering, either to our own pride or to the glory of the One who also watched the same moon rise from the shore of Galilee. The One whose sandaled feet left a mark on this world that two millennia have not erased. The One who came to mark our souls with the imprint of his love; and who told us reflect that love like the moonrise, into the darkness around us.