Kids’ birthday parties, man. Necessary. But shout out to all the parents who have to brave the chaos to take their littles to the celebrations. It can be a war zone out there. Scary stuff. A few months ago, we had a birthday party to attend at a rock climbing gym. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite places for parties. We had been to a birthday there before, but the boys were too small to fully embrace the fun. So we talked about what they could expect before we went, and I watched the wheels of my middle crank away.
Will they tell me the rules?
What if I do something wrong?
What if I fall?
Will there be a lot of people there?
How will I know what to do?
From the moment he came wailing into this world, my middle has faced anxiety. Moments after he was born, as we had family in to see our newest pride and joy, nurses came and politely said, “We are going to have to clear the room. He’s having difficulty breathing because this, so many people, is all very overwhelming for him.” He was about 28 minutes old.
He is insanely smart. He is wildly imaginative. He is a fierce competitor and stellar athlete. He speaks with a vocabulary that impresses me daily. He is a natural entertainer and is absolutely hilarious. But his struggles with anxiety often don’t allow his natural gifts to shine. So we encourage. We plan. We push and we hold back. We speak life. We attempt to keep safe zones. We offer empathy. We present new experiences. And in his five and a half years of life, he has grown so much.
So there we are, sitting at the rock house. The instructor comes to give all of the rules and safety guidelines and I watch the anxiety build like a boiling pot. When it’s time to climb, he walks over to me with his harness. “I’ll stay here with you.” But Buddy, don’t you want to just try? You don’t have to go very high. And there is a rope to make sure you don’t fall. “No I’ll stay here.” So we watched. And I waited. And then, “Momma, I want to try.” Alright, Buddy. Let’s go.
I beamed with pride as I watched my courageous middle climb higher and higher each time. I watched as he got to precarious pit stops and had to search out the next step. I watched as he reached in faith for the higher rock and grunted to lift himself higher on the wall. And it was all I could do not to cry my little eyes out as my heart was nearly ready to burst. I couldn’t have been more proud.
As we drove home, I thought of him embarking on this new experience. I thought of him going higher than he ever thought he could—than those around him ever thought he could. I thought of the joy on his face when he arrived in new territory, and his words as we left, “I can’t wait to come back and go even higher!”
All because he decided to leave the safe zone.
We must give God the joy of watching us walk through unfamiliar territory. There is an old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” And sometimes, I think that might be good wisdom. But there are other times we are called to reach higher. We are called to do more. We are called to search out the next step even when we don’t see it. To leave behind what is safe and push on to elevate ourselves higher than we ever thought was possible.
As for me, I am ready to reach. I am ready to leave behind the safe footing I have enjoyed and thrust my hand upward in faith to grab for what is next. To give my God the joy of beaming with pride as I push on, higher and higher, toward what He has called me to be…
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”