By Katie Helmreich
My 5-year-old, Jane, has been looking forward to the end of year Preschool field trip for ages! “We get to go do gymnastics, Mom! Gymnastics!!” So we carefully counted down the days. “Is it tomorrow? Tomorrow tomorrow? Or tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow?”
Today was the big day. She bounced in her car seat the whole way to the gym. She skipped from the car to the door, from the door to the mat!
Then she froze.
She hadn’t been expecting all the parents to be there. She hadn’t been expecting the big parallel bars, the towering stacks of mats, or the unfamiliar teachers. It was too big, too scary, and too much.
It’s always strange to see my self-assured, strong-willed, ready-for-anything kid shut down when in public. No logic was working, no encouragement, no kidding around. Nothing…
So I just stood there, with a 5-year-old attached to my leg. Ugh.
Gradually, she loosened her grip. Slowly, she accepted the hand of her teacher and timidly walked toward the group. Jane silently accepted her place in the row of seated preschoolers, and eventually followed a friend up the bouncy slide steps.
She tried it! And somehow scraped her leg … so she shut down again. She hid her face; but she stayed with the other kids.
Jane meekly followed the group to the next activity, then silently refused to have anything to do with the obstacle course in front of her. I reminded her how much she’d loved telling her siblings about the playground she’d conquered last week. I offered to take pictures so she could tell them about this! Didn’t change her mind. But I could tell she was thinking about it. She watched the others take their turns, and was just about to go for it when it was time to move on.
Showing up. Listening. Baby steps. Progress.
The next challenge looked more intimidating, in my opinion, but this time she was ready. You could tell she was terrified, and she still wouldn’t say a word to her teacher, but she stood up, climbed up the mat, and rode the zip line across the room!
The next turn was easier. The turn after that she was even starting to smile and scrambled up the ramp to get back in line with gusto!
The rest of the morning was still challenging. But Jane found her courage in baby steps, trying new things, following her teacher.
To be honest, it took me a bit to get over my exasperation at the clingy kid stage. I had to laugh my way through the idea that I’d given up my morning to stand here in a gym watching my kid refuse to do anything.
But as I watched her grow into a new situation I started to realize how many things in life are like this.
I know I’ve often faced tasks or roles that have seemed too big, too scary, or too much! Some of the things that made me freeze probably seemed laughably easy to someone else. What’s the big deal?
The obstacles we face and the ways we approach them are unique. When we follow Jesus, there will be times when we feel like skipping from the car to the door, from the door to the mat!
Sometimes we freeze. Who better to cling to than Jesus?
After a bit we’re able to take a tiny step forward, often when someone comes alongside us and walks with us for a while. Following Jesus together is such a blessing!
Sometimes following Jesus just means staying, even when it’s scary. When we sit on the mat, in the pew, or at the table, we learn by observing and slowly find courage by seeing how God is working in the lives or our friends.
Following Jesus doesn’t always mean we’re moving forward quickly. But our Savior knows just how to encourage us, and how to direct our hands and feet to the next rock on the climbing wall. He calls us by name and calms our terror just enough for us to take the next step.
Soon, as we gain momentum, and rack up a few moments of bravery, we find ourselves smiling again. We find the strength to run toward the next milestone! We flash a thumbs up to those cheering us on. We get that rush of joy that only comes on the other side of what seemed impossible!
Jane had “the best morning ever!” She was so proud! And I’m proud of her, too; especially because I know what she had to overcome!
I’m proud of you for following Jesus today! For clinging to Jesus, for showing up, for staying engaged when things get tough. And I’m so glad to be able to cheer for you along with your other brothers and sisters in Christ.
You’re doing it! Sure you’re terrified sometimes! It’s not easy following Jesus. But by the grace of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, here you are: doing it!
Rejoice in the moments of bravery you’ve experienced. Grab the hand of someone near you, and take the next step together as you continue to follow Jesus!