Here's a scene that's played out daily in living rooms from Houston to Harare, from Belfast to Bangkok.
"Come on, little one." Small fingers reach up to be held. "That's it. I've got you. Steady." One tiny foot is swinging loose, trying to go forward, trying so hard to touch ground upfront.
Rustle of waterproof diaper-cover. Swish ... swish ... swish ... kerkerkerplunkkk! "Three steps! Come on. You can do it. Ready. Off you go!"
Swish ... swish ... swish ... swish ... swish ... swish ....
"Look, she's walking ... she's walking ... she's taken her first steps! Whatta girl!" Or, "Whatta boy!" Another child has taken his or her first steps, and life in that home will never be the same again.
It's a bit like taking the first steps toward a firm relationship with God - at any stage of life. Our shoes may not be bronzed as mementos, and our first faltering steps may not be recorded on videotape, but our days are filled with new experiences. Exciting discoveries. Bold adventures. More light. More wonder. More possibilities. More challenges. More opportunities for loving.
After all, what cannot God do? And, as His offspring, what cannot we do?
I well remember my first tentative steps into management in a nationwide corporation for which I'd been working for just four years. I'd proved myself by handling some creative assignments on my own and getting nice pats on the back. But I'd had no experience in managing people. What's more, two of the men on the team I was to lead were more than twice my age and were just waiting to pounce if I wobbled even for a moment.
I thought of the baby steps taken by my own children, and it occurred to me that steady walking is like steady thinking. The steadiness comes from walking with God - acknowledging the strength that He lovingly and ceaselessly imparts; fully trusting Him for direction and for whatever is needed to keep moving ahead.
Although there's no road map for the whole journey, each step becomes steadier as mental balance and a firmer understanding of God and His nature increases. As willingness to obey Him and prayerful listening become habits, reliance and confidence become habits, and we can move forward joyfully. The Psalmist assures us that when we obey God's laws, "none of [our] steps shall slide" (see Ps. 37:31).
I also discovered that if I hesitate momentarily or take a little tumble, God is right there to pick me up, so to speak - to encourage, and move me in the right direction. There's no need to feel shame or condemnation when an exercise has to be repeated or a lesson relearned. Each experience brings more confidence.
When you have established a firm, loving relationship with God, stay close to Him in thought, and really trust Him, you find that "every step of progress is a step more spiritual," as Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, said in one of her sermons ("The People's Idea of God," pg. 1).
The spiritual foundation on which I was able to place my first steps into management never let me down. We became a successful work team in which traditional management skills scarcely played a part at all. I delegated left, right, and center, and everyone enjoyed taking greater responsibility. After four years of progress, we celebrated over dinner one evening. I smiled gratefully as one of my colleagues announced to the group, "The best thing about the way we work together is that we never really need to know who is boss!"
One of the clearest lessons I learned was that even if I feel a bit embarrassed to speak of "baby" steps, I need to keep taking them anyway - in the same spirit of adventure. They're humble steps, listening steps, trusting steps, holding-on steps. And they're always forward steps, spiritually-growing steps, with fewer and fewer kerplunks.
Hold up my
goings in thy paths,
that my footsteps
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor