Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Second Step

"The journey of a thousand steps begins with the first one," or something like that. I don't remember who said it or what the actual quote might be but that is basically what is said. No matter how long the journey, you can't make it to the end without taking the first step. And there is truth in that statement. Sometimes we are crippled in our lives because we are afraid to take the first step. We know we must take that step and get started but it is difficult for us to take that first step. Fear cripples us. It stops us from moving forward.

Then I thought to myself this morning, perhaps it isn't the first step that cripples us. It is the second step that really causes us the most problems.The second step, it is much more difficult than the first one.

 I thought of that this morning as I helped Blackie, our 14 year old dog, wake up and come up the stairs. The journey of 13 steps begins with the first one. But then again, it isn't the first step that causes him problems. He puts his front paws on the first step, and then stops. He took the first step. He made it up the first one. It was the second step, continuing to walk up the steps, that caused him so much trouble.

That is the way that it is for us. The journey may begin with the first step but it the second one that really cripples us. As the New Year begins, we will make our resolutions. We will take the first step and move towards our goal, but we don't continue to move that direction. Like Blackie, we stand on that first step and don't continue the journey. We don't take the second step to continue towards our goal. And we fail in our resolution.

In our spiritual life it is much the same way. We take the first step but it the second one that messes us up. We are brought to faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior We confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus is our Savior - first step. (Now don't turn on me at this point. I am merely using an analogy at this point. I know that the Holy Spirit, working through the Means of Grace - Word and Sacraments - is the One who helps us and guides us in our lives of faith. I am talking about our part, our life, the way we go through our days in that faith.) We go to church that one time. We pick up the Bible that one time. We say we follow our Lord that one time.

Then the second step comes. We have to continue in that life of faith. Perhaps there are other things vying for our attention and our time, and as we look at those steps of faith (living each day in Christ), we don't take that second step. We stay on the first one, believing - yes, but not moving past that first step. We don't open the Bible the second time. We don't attend worship the second time. We don't live out our faith the second time. We say, "Well, at least I believe. At least I am on the first step." And we think we have made the journey.

We must continue on to the second step, then the third, fourth, fifth and so on until that last step is taken, the step that takes us into heaven. Like Blackie, we will never make it to the top of the stairs without taking the second step. We are told that this is a journey of faith, daily, each step, each day, without stopping. We continue day after day, step after step, not stopping, not turning back.

Blackie will stand with his front paws on the first step and then whine. He might even give that annoying bark that goes right through you. He stands there and complains. He doesn't want to go up those 13 stairs. He took the first step. Why must he take the rest of the stairs. I stand next to him, encouraging him. He backs off. Does it again with the same result. We will do that 3-4 times. Each time I encourage him. I talk to him. I even tell him, "Blackie, I can carry you up the stairs but you don't like that either. He complain the whole time. It is easier on you to walk up the stairs." And he gives me that "you have to be kidding" look and does it all over again.

How often are we like him? We take the first step and figure that things much get easier from here on. But we don't take the second step. We don't want to move from the first one. It is enough. We whine. We complain - all at God. We get angry with God. We don't like how things have gone in our lives, so we stand on the first step, refusing to take the second step, letting the things or events of our lives cripple us as we stand on the first step and complain to God that things aren't fair, that He acted wrongly, that we can't believe His love, yadda, yadda, yadda. (Mind you, I am not making light of those things that you feel or say. They are very real. They are your feelings and your thoughts. But they cripple you if you remain on that step and refuse to take the next one.) 

Blackie doesn't make it to the top till he takes the second step. And I walk with him up the stairs, step after step, encouraging him, talking with him, being his Barnabas. That is what the Spirit does for us. We gives us all that we need to continue to the second step and beyond. He helps us. He encourages us. He strengths us. But we must move our spiritual feet and take the next step. Each step, day after day, no matter how difficult or how challenging those steps are, we are to take them.

Blackie makes it to the top each time. We go through this several times a day. I never stop my part. He never stops his part. I often wonder if that is the way it is for our Lord. Day after day, moment after moment, He must continue to support us, love us, encourage us, help us and lead us. Does He ever get frustrated and quit? I know I think about not doing it for Blackie (but I still do because I love the old guy). God never, Never, NEVER gets frustrated or stops helping us. He is with us, day after day, even when we push Him away. He walks with us day after day, loving, caring, supporting and saving us.

What is stopping you from that second step? Ask the Lord to help you to break out of your fear, anger, frustration, grief, whatever it might be that is stopping you. And then, with His help, take the second step.

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