When Lois Brown was talking to the OVERFLOW group this past weekend, she challenged us with a question that came from the Bible in Jeremiah 12:5
If you can’t walk with the footmen, how will you run with the horses?
I’ve been thinking about that question lately. I’m sure you get the idea – if you can’t handle the simple stuff, how will you handle the tougher challenges in life? After all, life just seems to get harder and more complicated as you get older, doesn’t it? When I was teaching high school, I used to say to my students, ” if you think life is tough now, wait until you get older! ” It may not seem like the most encouraging comment to make as a teacher and it definitely was rather cliché-ish but I wanted these young people to get some perspective on life. To be honest, this statement birthed some great conversations over the years.
When I think back on my life, I can clearly recall “grounding” decisions that I made – decisions that helped me make sense of the way my life was unfolding. The first culminating “step up to the plate” decision that I made was when I finished high school. After some really tough times with my mother, I realized that I was not responsible to “fix” her addiction to alcohol so I made the bold decision to move overseas for a year. I had an opportunity to continue my gymnastics training in Germany so I packed up and took my first airplane ride across the waters…alone. All my friends were heading to university and assumed I would follow suit but I knew in my heart that I had a different path to blaze.
The thing is that there were many “baby step” decisions building up, adding to and converging into that bold, geographical move on my own.
As we grow up, we all watch and listen, ask questions and periodically step out and experiment with life. In doing so, I learned that things weren’t quite right in my home but over time, I learned how to survive. By the time high school was coming to a close, I had become very independent. I needed to get away so away I went. I had learned how to walk with the footmen and I was ready to run with the horses.
Talking about gymnastics, here’s a good story to bring home my point.
My friend and fellow gymnast, Janice Weber was tumbling down the mats, executing some pretty good round-off/back handspring/ layout – full twists and I wanted to try this move too. I asked my coach to spot me so that I could throw a twist for the first time. Mrs. Nutzenburger said that I wasn’t ready…that I hadn’t mastered the the proper rhythm of the round-off, back layout yet. I remember her words.
“Diane, there are steps you need to follow. You gotta get the back layout down first – then we can work on the twist.”
But I was persistent and I eventually wore down my coach’s resistance. I talked Mrs. Nutzenburger into giving me a quick “back twist for dummies” explanation and I was ready for the big times.
Well, I ran towards the mat, finished the round off, back handspring and went all out for the back layout/twist. As I was turning my undisciplined body in the air, I hit something hard and heard a crack. I managed to land on the mat, looked up and saw blood pouring out of Mrs. Nutzenburger’s nose. There was blood everywhere. I had completely demolished my coach’s nose and she was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. I just felt terrible. She never brought up the topic again and she never said, “I told you so” . I learned something significant that day.
Walk with the footmen. THEN run with the horses. Little steps of faith first. Little steps of action first.
Eugene Peterson, in his book, Run with the Horses, writes, “Anyone and everyone is able to live a zestful life. Such lives fuse spontaneity and purpose and green the desiccated landscape with meaning. We see how it is possible; by plunging into a life of faith, participating in what God initiates in each life, exploring what God is doing in each event.”
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. Luke 16:10