“What if I stumble, what if I fall?
What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble, and what if I fall?”
Chorus from the song, “What if I Stumble?“
Artist: DC Talk
His tiny hands clenched he edge of the country blue sofa. He bounced in place, wearing footie pajama’s and a smile so big that it lit the entire room with joy. Today would be the day. It was written all over his face: “I am ready, I want to walk. Teach me!” And so, we did.
I kneeled next to one end of the couch, my husband at the other. We faced each other, our 11 month old son stood between us, his hands gripping the cushion like a life raft. I held out my hands to him. “Come on, you can do it!” I encouraged him, half afraid he’d listen and take his first steps towards independance. My whole body strained against itself as his tiny hand let go of the edge of the couch. I wanted to reach out and keep him from falling. I didn’t. I knew he couldn’t learn, if I didn’t let him try. For a moment, his jammie clad body teetered, then wobbled and his left foot lifted off the ground. He jerkily moved it forward and then planted it onto the mauve carpet. A giggle of delight escaped his lips and mine. “You did it!” I shouted- a cheerleader in mom-jeans.
And then, he did it again. And again, and again. First towards me and then back towards his daddy. Suddenly, he fell with a “plop” and landed on his diaper padded backside. A look of confusion and fear crossed his face. Tears started to well up in his eyes. He was afraid, sad, hurt.
“It’s ok, try again.” My husband and I called. Slowly, borrowing courage from our words, he crept back up to his feet. He turned his little body and tentatively he again, let go of the couch and walked towards his daddy. Eventually, he just kept walking. One step at a time, all the way to college and adulthood.
For years- I thought God was a cosmic judge, ready, willing and able to “zap” someone for taking a mis-step. I was afraid that he would reject me if I messed up, stumbled or fell. Sometimes, I was afraid to move at all, because it could lead to a fall. I struggled to find God’s will, afraid to make a move outside of it and face God’s wrath. Those were not joyful times in my journey.
Then, I had my own child. A child I stood beside a couch with, as he learned to crawl, creep, walk and finally, to run. When he took those jammie clad steps, all that filled my heart was a yearning for him to make it. It never crossed my mind to reprimand him for falling, or reject him for trying and failing. I was always ready to comfort him when he fell, but I had to let him. I knew that it would require falling, in order to learn.
One day as I watched him toddle with excitement and pride, a question crossed my mind: “Is God a less loving parent than me? ” There was only one answer. “No.” He is not. I could not picture him standing along side the couch of my life and zapping me for every stumble and fall. I couldn’t imagine him yelling: “What’s wrong with you, why don’t you get it right? I told you what to do! Now, STOP FALLING!” (things I had imagined him saying to me,in response to my stumbling through life.) I couldn’t imagine that being his response to my teetering steps.
That day, settled the fear that had so long haunted me. I no longer saw God as watching me, ready to “zap” me if I fell. I saw him as loving me, and letting me learn. I saw him as encouraging me to continue on, and learn to walk and eventually to run. More than just a cosmic cheerleader- he is the one who can pick me up when I fall.
True, I have felt the sting of falling on my no longer diaper- protected, backside. There are consequences to my sin, the consequences are painful. God doesn’t always reach out and catch me as I fall, but he always encourages me to get back up and take the next step, and in doing so, he’s teaching me to walk.
“What if I stumble? What if I fall?” I don’t often fear it as I did. I know I will learn and I will be loved, I will be steadied and put back on my feet, so I can take the next steps that teach me to run. Not because of my skill or sheer will, but because I have a loving father, encouraging me on, picking me up and putting me back on my feet to try again.