The Right Stuff

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I was watching the movie The Right Stuff when my wife walked in, grabbed the remote, and changed the channel. That’s right men, she
—changed—the—channel! Can you believe it? I went from watching one of the all-time great “dude” movies to suddenly wondering if some girl would say yes to the dress. My wife just doesn’t get it!
The Right Stuff is a movie about the early days of the American space program that focuses on the lives of the first astronauts and the struggles they faced as they risked their lives so our nation could reach space. The movie also focuses on Chuck Yeager, the test pilot who initially breaks the sound barrier, but never becomes as famous as the men who go up into space. It would be a deep regret of his for a majority of his life.

I’m sure many of you who are around my age can remember the early days of the American space program. The whole thing of sending a man into space was an exciting—and scary—thing. I can remember watching those rockets sitting there on the launch pad getting ready to hurtle into space, and wondering if they would get back safely. And choosing those first astronauts was a challenge. Not just anybody could be the first men up; it would take a very special person, a person with just the right qualities.

When Tom Wolfe wrote his book about these first astronauts, he also called it The Right Stuff. That term, “the right stuff,” was coined to describe the special qualities that a person needed to have in order to undertake such an out-of-this-world challenge. Of course, there was a physical dimension: some people were simply weeded out because their eyesight was not good enough or because their blood pressure rose too quickly. But mainly “the right stuff” referred to those inner qualities: self-
confidence, but not risky arrogance, courage, coolness under duress. At every level of training, more and more people were eliminated because they just didn’t have “the right stuff.”

The public adored the astronauts once they actually made it into space. These men, through their skill and willingness to risk their lives, gave
America back our feeling of honor. There were magazine covers and TV specials as well as ticker tape parades. One such parade was done in 17 degrees weather! Even in the extreme cold, people were waving flags, hanging over railings, and standing for hours on the New York streets just to get a glimpse of these men.

Alan Shepherd was one of these men who had the right stuff. He was America’s first suborbital astronaut! But when he wanted to go the moon a health problem arose and resulted in his being grounded. Stuck with a desk job, he vividly dreamed of going to the moon. It was sheer determination (spirit) more than anything else that finally made that dream into reality. Tears flowed on the moon and earth when Alan Shepherd landed on that rock and beamed back to earth. “It was a long trip, but I finally made it,” he reported.

Here’s a little look into my own childhood: The first time any teacher asked me what I was one day dreaming of becoming, I didn't say “preacher” (sorry about that). No, I was just like many boys back then, I wanted to be an astronaut. One major problem, when it came to math skills, I didn’t have the right stuff. Truth be told, in just about every area needed to go into space, I didn’t have the right stuff.

However, my goals in life have changed dramatically. Oh, I still look forward to going up one day, but not into space. I’m looking to something higher than that. My goal is to reach the Father in heaven and take as many people with me as I can. And the good news . . . I have the right stuff to make that dream a reality.

Do you think you have the right stuff? No, I’m not talking about your abilities. I mean do you have Jesus. He is the only one who has the right
stuff. And once we’re connected to Him, we become people with the right stuff too.

[Ron Otto, Preaching minister at Lincoln Christian Church]


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