My daughter asked me the other day to tell her about the story of her first steps. She was asking because she came across a little video montage her Dad had made of her toddling first steps across the red linoleum floor of our kitchen. We lived in a little arts and crafts bungalow house at the time. She was wearing a little flowered sundress, and the polished vintage floor made her look like a timeless traveller that could have been wobbling on her tiny feet across multiple decades. The video was set to Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk which she thought was cute, until she heard the name of the song, and then took some tween indulgent offense.
What she wanted to know was what she was walking toward, because in the video it’s clear that she is propelling herself forward to something she cannot wait to reach. She was quite disappointed to learn that her primary motivation was the green mesh wrap from a pear that had had come in a box of fresh fruit. “Seriously??” she protested, “a pear wrapper? You baited me to walk with a pear wrapper?!”
Her Dad and I acknowledged our pathetic, pragmatic parenting yet again. Then, we all were in an uproar of laughter as we watched the video again knowing the destination was driven by such a mundane yet obviously enticing inspiration. Yet, after that moment, the world was hers to explore on foot. Like many parents, we’ve been running to keep up ever since.
I was thinking of that story tonight, a night that marks literally and symbolically some new first steps on my own journey. I spent the weekend with some amazing and wonderful companions on my spiritual journey; they have agreed to help me focus on where my steps are leading and exploring what I am called to do next on this journey of life. I arrived early to our retreat site this morning to walk the labyrinth, which seemed like a very symbolic and meaningful way to begin. I set out with intention, placing one foot in front of the other. I lost myself in the cadence, moving forward with each step not toward a specific destination, but toward the openness of mystery and glimpses of truth.
I suspect that it wasn’t the pear wrapper that motivated our daughter’s first steps. I imagine instead that the wobbliness that gave way to confident forward motion lit up something in her that gave her a glimpse of a brave, new world she could chase after. I suspect what propels me forward isn’t a prescriptive and protective coating, either. Likewise, a glimpse of divine mystery that speaks to my soul also compels me to take the wobbly steps forward, in faith and community, that allow me to begin a new journey that will unfold step by step, year by year, small point of light after small point of light…