One Step At A Time

step
Exodus 13:17-22
June 5, 2016

One step at a time.

A couple of weeks ago my friend was at the ballpark
watching his 9 year old son play baseball.
He suddenly collapsed on the sidelines.
He was rushed to the hospital,
where it was confirmed that he had had a massive stroke.
In an instant, his entire left side was paralyzed.

His wife’s posts were initially full of shock
that her 45 year old husband would have a stroke.
But after a few days,
he was transferred to rehab,
and she began to post pictures of her determined husband
working with his physical therapist
to re-learn to walk.

On Thursday I saw a beautiful picture of my friend on his feet.
His therapist was on one side,
and his son on the other holding a measuring tape.
The caption read, “90 feet!!!!” (triple exclamation point)

90 feet…
each and every foot earned,
working at it just one step at a time.

God leads the people out of Egypt,
in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
God leads them – but only just one step at a time.

In his poem, “Pillar of Fire,”
John Henry Newman, prays that he may be led by a pillar of fire,
like the Israelites.

“Lead kindly light,” he says.
The night is dark and I am far from home.
Lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet;
I do not ask to see the distant scene –
one step enough for me.”

I don’t know though…
Most of the time, one step doesn’t seem enough.
I’d like to see the “distant scene” Newman talks about.
I’d like God to reveal the end point… and all the stops in between.
I’d like to know the obstacles I might meet along the way…. you know, so I can plan!

When I’m getting ready for vacation,
I check the weather forecast,
I book a hotel room,
I plan my itinerary,
I buy my tickets.
I don’t just show up at the airport and ask,
“Now where Lord?
Where should I go?
Just one step at a time!”

But here’s the thing…
throughout the Bible, God tends to lead just one step at a time.

When God calls Abraham and Sarah,
God says, “Go where I send you…”

When God calls Jeremiah,
God says, “Say you’ll be a prophet.”

When God calls Mary,
God says, “You will bear a child.”

When God calls Simon and Andrew,
God says, “Follow me.”

When God calls Philip and Nathaniel,
God says, “Come and see.”

Not a lot of detail….

“Bring my people out of Egypt,” God says to Moses.
Where to?
Just follow my lead – the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
I’ve got you covered day and night.
Just come along.

If the Israelites had known about the Red Sea that was up ahead,
would they have gone?

If they had known about the hunger…and then manna and only manna day after day,
would they have left?

If they had known that they’d be wandering about in the wilderness for 40 years
would they have chosen to stay put?

If the Israelites had known the whole story,
would slavery in Egypt have seemed like a better option?
Perhaps…

And perhaps that is why God does not give the whole story…
God is a God of freedom…
and yet if we knew ahead of time the price we pay for freedom,
the struggles we have by following God’s call,
perhaps we’d opt out.

Friends of mine were at a church in Vermont last week.
The pastor was in the midst of a sermon series addressed to his Confirmation students called,
“15 Things Every Christian Should Know.”

Of course it got us thinking together about what those 15 things might be…

Something like today’s lesson would be on that list for me…
God often leads us to unknown places.
It may be scary.
Go anyway.
One step at a time.

My friend will learn again to walk one step at a time.
The alcoholic will attain sobriety one step at a time.
Muhammed Ali won the title, “The Greatest” one bout at a time.

Championships are won one game at a time.
Quilts are made one stitch at a time.
Books are written one word at a time.
Graduation is earned one class at a time.
Jobs are offered one interview at a time.

Cancer is treated one chemo infusion at a time.
Grief is lived one day at a time.

Racism is extinguished one relationship at a time.
Hunger is eliminated one meal at a time.
Peace is won one conversation at a time.
Change happens one voice at a time.

That first game may be scary – play it anyway.

Putting that first word on paper may be daunting – write it anyway.

That first time speaking out may be frightening – say it anyway.

This is one thing I’d like Confirmation students to know…
When God calls us to do something,
the first step is almost always terrifying.
Take it anyway.

God will be there with you – by day and by night –
by cloud and by a pillar of fire –
not lighting up the whole journey for you,
but showing you where to go one step at a time.
Faith is taking that first step even when we’re afraid.

Where do you need to take a step today?
Take it.
Just for today….just one step.

Amen.

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