As I've been recovering from my big surgery these last few months, I've been thinking about what it means to get stronger, to be able to use muscles I haven't used well in years, for the core of who I am to be strong and solid and working as it should.
I notice as I grow strong that I also get sore. I do too much; sometimes I fail and fall. But I'm getting stronger every day, and that makes everything more fun. Riding my horse is a even more of a joy - I'm strong as I sit on her back. Working in the barn is invigorating as I can use the muscles that weren't working before to shovel and scoop and grab saddles from the top rack. I can lift heavier objects; I stay solid in shaky circumstances.
I want that strength not only in my physical core, but also my spiritual one - the true core of my being! That's what I want for all of my life! And so I've been thinking of Jayden when he was a baby and just learning to stand. He was getting strong too. He struggled, he got sore, he fell, and he kept on getting stronger until he could run around with joy.
So, I wanted to share his story today to encourage you as it's been encouraging me. Here's what it's like to learn to stand, to strength our true core until we can stand, run, ride, and scoop poop (literal and figurative) like never before …
I held my breath and watched as Jayden struggled to pull himself up using the planter in my office. At eight months old, he was determined to master the art of standing.
For him, it didn’t matter that just that morning he’d fallen twice, hit his face on the floor both times, and given himself a red nose and forehead. He’d cried loud and hard each time, but after a few moments, he was back at it again. Working, stretching, striving to do more, to stand longer, to see beyond what could be seen from all fours. He was indomitable in his desire to see his world from new heights.
So, he pulled, he grunted, he wobbled, he swayed. And finally, he did it. He stood tall and straight with his hands grasping the edge of the planter. Then, he turned and grinned at me before plopping back to the floor. I clapped and leaned back as he crawled to the bookcase, grabbed the bottom shelf, and strained to stand again. And again. And again.
For an hour he puttered around my office, working to pull himself up on everything he could reach. Meanwhile, I sat at my desk and worked too. Except I was working to pull out the right words to answer emails from a few difficult people in my life. He strained, I strained. He groaned, I groaned. I almost gave up. He never did.
I stared at my computer screen, not wanting to reach out again, try again, love again. But Jayden showed me I was wrong.
I rested my fingers on the keyboard and glanced back as he balanced against the trash can. Just the week before, he’d been happy swinging in his baby swing or jumping in his bouncer. But now those things weren’t enough. Instead, he wanted to grunt and grin, struggle and stand. And next, he turned to tackle the stairs.
As I watched him, I learned something important about myself and about God. Jayden wanted to go more places, do more things, explore and stretch his newfound abilities. Even when it hurt, even when he failed, even when he wobbled and fell. He didn’t care, because when he stood, he could see things, touch things, feel things that he never could experience if he stayed on the ground. At eight months old, he knew that pain and failure shouldn’t stop him.
By watching him, I realized that it shouldn’t stop me either. Just because I’ve loved and been hurt, doesn’t mean I should be reluctant to love again. Just because I’d reached out and failed, shouldn’t mean I don’t reach out again. God wants me to keep trying, keep reaching, keep struggling to do what’s right. Yet, too often, I let past pain hold me back from trying more, stretching, and pushing the limits of my faith. I worry about being hurt again and forgot the wonder of finding new freedom in being like Christ.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” In the verse before, Paul urges Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” – not to shrink back, but to push forward to allow the fire to grow within him.
So, as Jayden stretched his arms to the second step and bent his knee to climb one more stair, he reminded me that I, too, want to be persistent in my walk with God. I want to be stretching, growing, trying to be more like Him every day. And that means choosing to love, choosing to reach out, choosing to give. And when I get a red nose and forehead, I ought to just have a good cry, then keep on pushing forward in the things that God would have me do. Only when I love like Him, even after being hurt, can I see new things, touch new horizons, reach the new heights He has planned for me.
Today, as I remember Jayden just starting to let go of the planter and take a few steps on his own, I find his relentless desire for growth still challenges me to forget past hurt and press on to follow God more fully, no matter how many owies I might get in the process.