All the women in my house suddenly gathered around our grandson, Jackson. We were celebrating Christmas a couple of days late and were opening gifts. My mother-in-law was holding this child that was born eight weeks premature. Because of this and some other complications, his parents keep a close eye on developmental milestones. One of the most anticipated by my daughter, Lily, was that he would smile. There have been a lot of challenges and milestones that we have watched this strong young man reach and overcome. He’s a lot like his parents—determined!
So, there it was! The biggest, cheesiest grin I have ever seen. Shirley was playing patty cake with him. It’s a different version that the one I know, but apparently it works! Not only was he smiling, but he also laughed! Every female in the house was cooing and fumbling for cameras. This was a big deal! I didn’t know what to do since he’s not old enough to high-five, so I just sat there stunned.
Another milestone for all children is the first step. It has been a long time since our children learned to walk, but now we are experiencing it again through our grandchildren. I have watched animals and all manner of humans take this first step and it’s usually similar. They stand there for the longest time contemplating the step. You can see the longing in their eyes and the consideration of the possibility of using a different way to get from A to B. Eventually, with great effort, they lift a leg only to topple or just sit back down because it scares them a little to be off balance. I suppose it’s a similar process with adults that have been disabled in various ways.
The first step or attempt to take a step usually sets off a chain reaction in parents. From that point forward, hour after hour is dedicated to standing the toddler up, encouraging them vigorously, and then mentally rising and falling with every movement the child makes. If parents could only fast forward to a few months later when the child will be into everything, they might not be so anxious to get this miniature person mobile.
Spiritually and emotionally, this reminds me of a principle taught by my friend, Dr. Paul Fitzgerald. He encourages people to take the next loving and courageous step. That’s it. Well, that’s not all he teaches but you know what I mean. If we can figure out the next best courageous and loving move, then all that is left is to just take the step. That’s what we want from the toddler—not for them to run a marathon or high jump onto the couch—just for them to take one step so we can get it on video. The unrealistic expectations will come later.
Why don’t we take courageous steps? To get the best advice, talk to Dr. Paul Fitzgerald at Heart Connexion Ministries. Or better yet, attend a Breakthrough seminar.
But, for now, allow me to make some assumptions. One of the reasons we don’t take the step is because we are not accustomed to it. The toddler hasn’t developed the muscle mass to confidently lift their leg yet. Bottom line, it’s hard! It’s hard because we haven’t done it ever or because we haven’t done it in a long time. How many of us need to exercise? Generally, we avoid starting because we know it’s hard in the beginning. Everyone knows it gets easier, but sometimes what we want right now is just to sit back down—after all, crawling is not that bad. To take the step is to start. Then, in a little while (or tomorrow), we take another step. That’s how it works!
Another thing that is probably true about most things is that there is a possibility of pain if we move forward. The toddler will fall in every way imaginable. They will fall backward into a sitting position. They will fall left. They will fall right. They will fall flat on their face in ways that will make the parents consider calling it all off. They will teeter and fall, suddenly fall, and repeatedly fall in every way imaginable. But most times, with a little encouragement, they get back up and they keep taking the next step. In adult life, there is physical pain, relational pain, emotional pain, and sometimes spiritual pain. Some of it is necessary suffering and some of it is because—well, frankly it is because of other people. They hurt us. I think this is a tricky maneuver because we don’t want to avoid progress because it is painful, but we also don’t want to keep re-injuring ourselves. Maybe the trick is to learn from every crisis, find the lesson in every hurt and keep leaning into it. Our balance, stamina and strength will improve and we will learn how to navigate the obstacles and/or jerks in our lives that cause us to stumble.
One thing about most toddlers is that they are living in the present. They probably don’t peer into the future or journey back into the past in their little brains. That part of the noggin gets developed later and we adults are very good at imaging ten steps down the road when we really need to focus on the next step. Often the next step provides a better vantage point. It also gains experience and builds confidence. Paralysis of analysis can keep us stuck right where we are and sometimes makes us retreat further. Going too fast may cause a face plant but going too slow can cause us to give up.
Let’s take a courageous and loving step today!
Here, I’ll stand you up. You can do it! Come on! Come on!