In a couple of days I’ll be moving out. Having lived at home for my first year at uni, I decided a while back that it’d be a good idea to move out for second year, but it’s only fairly recently that it’s hit me what a big deal it is. I’ve been alternately (and simultaneously) excited and nervous for the past couple of weeks, but the other night I was in a worried phase and my Mum gave me a brilliant piece of advice that really resonated with me. She told me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other like a toddler does when they’re learning to walk, taking each little step at a time without worrying about what’s beyond that, because eventually I’ll get to where I need to be. Sounds really basic at first doesn’t it? But after pondering it a bit longer, I realised how profound her illustration actually is.
Toddlers literally don’t worry about what comes after each step: they’re just taking them one at a time, not stressing about what comes next. Why? Because worrying doesn’t help; in fact, it’d only hinder them, making them too scared to even lift a foot off the ground in case they toppled over, and then they’d never get anywhere. Worrying discourages you from even making a single step, but if you overcome your fears and step out in faith you can accomplish so much! Even a shuffle forward is huge progress at first, and eventually, after lots and lots of little steps, you’ll be able to walk confidently, and before long you’ll even be able to run! It’s also important to remember that life’s a journey; you won’t get to where you want to be overnight, and you won’t be successful without putting in the effort that’s required. This not-worrying business also includes not panicking that you’re not the finished article yet – it’ll take your whole life to develop into that person, so don’t get so focused on becoming the person you’re meant to be that you forget to enjoy getting there!
Another dimension to this illustration involves the role of the parental figure. Perhaps the main reason toddlers aren’t worried when they’re taking their first steps is that they know that their Mum or Dad, who they trust completely, will catch them when they fall. As Christians, this is the attitude we should have; we have an incredibly loving and powerful Father who’s always watching over us, guiding us, and protecting us, and rather than doubting Him or over-analysing things, we should trust unconditionally in Him like a toddler does with their parents, believing that He’s got everything under control, even when circumstances suggest otherwise, and believing He can do the impossible. I know I’m safe in His arms, no matter what tries to stand in my way or make me fall. Furthermore, like a loving parent He won’t rebuke us or punish us when we stumble; instead, He’ll graciously pick us up and put us back on the right path. We may not get things right first time, but it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. If we have the incredible perseverance that all toddlers seem to have, getting straight back up when we fall flat on our bums and trying again and again until we succeed, then we’ll reach our destination in the end. I guess God allows us to go through hard times sometimes to help us learn and to make us stronger, but ultimately I believe that if we trust in Him, He works everything out for our good.
I think the beauty of this metaphor is in its universality. However much we know about the world, there’s always so much more that we have yet to discover, so in a sense, we’re all like toddlers, constantly learning and developing, continually being influenced by what we perceive around us, and vulnerable if we choose to rely just on our own strength. Because of this, I reckon we should have the same attitude they do; not worrying about what’s beyond the next little step, persevering if we don’t achieve our goals the first time we try, and totally relying on our loving Father.