When I was in middle school, my parents sent me to space camp. Twice.
In addition to quite possibly making them the best parents ever, it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about how space exploration works.
Space travel is hard. For every pound of equipment launched into low earth orbit, dozens of pounds of fuel must be burned.
In theory, getting home from orbit should be easier. All you have to do is slow down, and you’ll begin to drop back towards earth.
This definitely takes far less fuel, but it introduces another problem: friction. The air we breathe is almost imperceptible under ordinary circumstances. But when you encounter it traveling at thousands of miles per hour, it’s like taking a leap off a high-dive into a pool of sand! In order to survive, you’ll need a bathing suit of steel. (Or, in the case of the Space Shuttle, an underbelly covered in heat-resistant tiles.)
Space travel isn’t easy, regardless of which way you’re headed. Going up takes so much energy, but re-entry can be a hard slap in the face.
This week is one of re-entry for me. I burned lots of fuel getting into the “orbit” of the holidays, and now I’m headed back into my atmosphere of life and work. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind staying in space a little bit longer. The freedom of weightlessness has been amazing.
Coming back to earth is hard, but it has its blessings, too. The fires of re-entry can be purifying. So many things seem clear from orbit, but what really matters is how life plays out on the ground.
Now is the time to begin that work of discernment. What will I be bringing back from the heights of the holiday season? What is meant to be burned up in the fires of re-entry, and what must be preserved? I pray for gentleness and patience with myself to know the difference.