Growing Older, Dreaming Bigger

On December 8, 2016, an American hero died—Astronaut John Glenn. He was 95 years old.

John was an ordinary person from a small town in Ohio. His mom was a school teacher and his dad owned a plumbing business. But John had big dreams. And he pursued those dreams.

  • First John served in the U.S. MILITARY for 24 years. During WWII he flew 59 combat missions over Japanese positions. His plane was hit by antiaircraft fire five times, but he survived. During the Korean War John flew 90 combat missions. Twice he returned to his base with over 250 holes in his plane.
  • Next John was an ASTRONAUT in the Mercury spaceflight program. On Feb. 20, 1962, he climbed into a small spacecraft called Friendship 7 and was launched into space. Flying at speeds of over 17,000 miles per hour, he circled the earth three times in five hours. Neither John nor NASA knew what would happen upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Would the heat shield protect his spacecraft or would it be burned up? Miraculously, he made it back safely. John was the first American to orbit the earth.
  • Later John was elected to the U.S. SENATE and represented his home state of Ohio for 24 years.

So now picture John Glenn at 77 years old. He is in his fourth term as senator. He has lived an amazing life. He has made unbelievable contributions to America and to the world. He is ready to kick back and take it easy, right? Wrong! He’s ready to go back into space! To put it in John’s own words, “Just because I’m 77 doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams.”

One of John’s focuses while senator was serving on the Special Committee on Aging. This committee studied issues facing an aging U.S. population. John pushed to go back into space, sort of like a guinea pig, to test the effects of space flight on an aging body. NASA agreed and on Oct. 29, 1998, he boarded the space shuttle Discovery and once again made history as the oldest man to fly in space. From high above the earth, John said: “To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible.”

John Glenn had big dreams and big plans, even as an older adult. It is apparent that God had big dreams and big plans for John Glenn, too. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It doesn’t say “I have plans for you up until retirement age.” It just says “I have plans for you—period.”

How big are your plans? Are there people you can help or inspire? Is there a goal you haven’t yet met? Are there places you’d like to go? I want to challenge you to have big dreams, even if you are an older adult, especially if you are an older adult.