I grew up in a household that LOVED America’s Funniest Home Videos, and for a very specific reason…
… We would tolerate the segments featuring kids who say the darnedest things and pets in all their furry cuteness. Sure, they were entertaining, but they weren’t why we chose to spend 30 minutes with Bob Saget on Sunday evenings, huddled around the television in our living room. We tuned in for one purpose and one purpose only: to watch people fall. It didn’t matter if you were an elementary student riding a bike or a senior citizen on the dance floor getting your groove on; a preschooler in the midst of a birthday party induced sugar-high or a middle-aged man attempting to entertain at a family gathering; if you were a junior high girl at a slumber party doing choreography to your favorite music video or a bride walking down the aisle, the Reyes household didn’t discriminate. Your trip down the stairs, fall off the stage, splash into the pool or face plant onto the ground was always welcome in our home. I honestly don’t think our family laughed harder than when we simply enjoyed the simplistic slapstick humor of watching people slip, trip, and fall in those poorly filmed home videos.
To be fair, our appreciation for funny and epic human fails was not limited to just videos. We would respond in much the same manner if a fellow family member happened to wipe out in our presence. Laugh first, then ask if they are okay was a motto in our home. And being the clumsy and somewhat coordination-challenged family that we were, this motto was put into practice on a regular basis.
A few years ago, I experienced one of those epic falls myself, and I got to tell you it is a lot more painful doing the falling than it is doing the laughing! But fall I did. And not to brag, but I’m fairly confident that if this topple had been caught on tape it would have won me some money on AFHV or at the very least would have made me an instant YouTube sensation!
I woke up early in the morning to my alarm clock (which I am convinced is a sound that is played on repeat in Hades itself). And that particular morning, I woke up tired. Like really tired. But there was hope! Coffee was currently brewing downstairs in the kitchen, and I was a mere minute away from my own personal caffeinated hero. Coffee was my goal. Coffee was my prize. And with this delicious vision for my near future, I jumped out of bed, grabbed my cup of water, and began to race down the stairs.
I so badly wanted my morning cup of coffee that without having more than a couple minutes of awake time under my belt, I thought it would be a brilliant idea for me to hop over a couple steps at a time while running down the stairs. You know, just to speed things up.
Obviously, my plan was a bit flawed. Instead of successfully skipping over a couple steps, I completely lost my footing and flew into the air. The cup of water I was holding became the first casualty of my clumsiness. It flew out of my hands, sending water splashing across the wall. My body flailed as I tried desperately to grab onto anything that could keep me from descending upon the floor beneath me. But no quick maneuvering on my part could stop the inevitable. When I finally did land on the ground, it was on my back, turning me into a human sled. I began sliding down the stairs, one after another, until finally I crashed into the side railing at the staircase’s midway point. In complete shock, I laid motionless on the floor. And just when I thought my morning could not get any more humbling, the water that was just seconds earlier in my cup was now dripping off the wall and onto my forehead.
There were no serious injuries, thank God, other than a few bruises on my back and a couple more to my ego. As I hobbled sorely to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of that precious coffee that had cost me more than I had bargained for, I began to laugh out loud. Laughing at myself, to be more specific.
Still to this day, when I think about my fall down the stairs, I instantly start laughing out loud! (I blame it on my upbringing.)
And beyond the laughter, there is a lesson: Each step along the way to my destination is an important one. If I try to skip over necessary steps, it will only lead to unnecessary pain.
This may be wisdom for the soul, but it’s also a sore spot for my impatience. I want to get where I’m headed as quickly as possible. I want shortcuts. I want an expedited experience. I want the thrill of sprinting without the discipline of pacing myself.
I don’t want to simply take the next step. The step seems so miniscule in comparison with the grand dreams God has placed in my heart for the future. I don’t want to devote my time to merely the next step. That takes intention, and energy, and endurance, and well, obedience. Ain’t nobody got time for that. No, I would much rather be transported as quickly as possible from my current location to the prize at the end of the staircase. I would much rather pray for God to give me what I desire, than to do the hard and laborious work of firmly planting my feet on each next step in front of me- the steps that would lead me to the very things I am hoping for.
In short, I would like the blessings of obedience without having to be obedient. I would like the rewards of faith without ever having to walk in faith. I would like the benefits of faithfulness without doing the time. I would like the affects of wisdom without having to apply it. I would like the fruit of the Holy Spirit without having to be led by the Holy Spirit. I want to live an abundant life fulfilling my God-given destiny, but I don’t want to have to work for it.
I’d rather skip those steps. Except that I can’t. Neither can you.
There’s no shortcut to becoming more like Jesus and fulfilling your God-given assignment. There’s no secret out there that will put you on a fast track to success. There’s no in-crowd that can get you out of simple obedience and faithfulness. There’s no magic pill to avoid daily taking up your cross in order to experience Christ’s resurrection power.
There’s just the next step. Jesus is always faithful to lead us to the next step. He illuminates our path through His Word, through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of others. And James 1 assures us that if we are feeling left in the dark, we can ask God for wisdom, and He will give it to us generously without finding fault.
It’s never a question of whether or not there’s a next step. The question is: will we take it?
If we don’t take it, we don’t move forward. And if we try to skip over it, we end up sprawled out on the floor with drops of water dripping on our head. Trust me, I have some experience with this. Our only option is to take the next step. Not avoid the next step. Not discount the step. Not despise the next step. Take the next step.
The next step will most likely require courage, strength, humility and discipline; and it will most certainly require faith.
Take for example one of the great heroes of faith, King David. It took faith for David to take the steps he took in the fields as a mere shepherd. But step he did. He stepped out and defeated the lion to protect the sheep. He stepped out and took a stand against the bear. He stepped out with only his father’s sheep listening as he sang songs of praise to God. And it was each of these small steps done when no one watching that prepared him for the very big step he took in defeating Goliath when everyone was watching.
The small steps matter. They not only lead you to the big ones, but they prepare you for them. As hard as this may sound, you need your own lions and bears and (oh, my… sorry, I had to!) alone time with your Savior to prepare you for the Goliaths down the road. I do too. We all do.
This week, I took my next step. I didn’t want to take it. It was uncomfortable and the initial outcome is still uncertain. I did it afraid. I did it awkwardly. I did it clumsily. My feet did not firmly plant themselves onto the next step. No, they fumbled around in the air desperate for solid ground. But eventually they landed. Moved by faith, my feet are still finding their footing in this next step, grounded in Christ and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not a huge step. It’s not one I will preach a sermon on or write a book about, and it probably won’t be a story I will remember to tell my kids someday. It wasn’t the greatest of steps or most glorious of steps; it was simply the next step. It was a step of obedience and faith, a step led by Jesus and empowered by the Spirit of God. And it’s still far too early for me to understand the full affects of this step or where exactly it will lead. It was just the next step Jesus was asking me to take, which meant it was the one worth taking.
The next step is always worth taking. So take your next step. Don’t put it off. Go for it! Embrace it! Praise God for it! Jesus is calling; He is beckoning you onward. And He has placed that step in your path to prepare you for your bright future…
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.”
-Psalm 37:23 New International Version