When our kids were small, our favorite Saturday thing to do was to take them on “adventures.” Simply put, we needed to get out of the house with them so we made it sound glamorous. I think that my husband and I needed these adventures as much as our kids. Once we tackled the logistics of gathering up our two kids and all of their stuff, strapping them into their car seats, and setting out, I know we enjoyed these adventures at least as much.
When we lived near Annapolis, Maryland, we had Baltimore to our north, and we spent many a Saturday at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where we made very good use of a family membership to the Baltimore Aquarium to watch the dolphin show, stand for hours in front of the coral reef exhibit, or hang out near the piranha tank. Washington, DC was to our south. It was a gift to be able to go to DC for one or two museums, or perhaps a kite festival, the national zoo, or a picnic near the reflecting pool below the Lincoln Memorial. We could go for a couple of hours, and when the kids got tired, we were assured that we could always come back again next weekend.
I think about what our kids learned from these experiences. There are the obvious things, like what a piranha eats, or what a giant wooly mammoth might have looked like. Less obvious are things like problem solving a way around a closed metro stop. Watching mom and dad read a map. Finding a bathroom in a huge outdoor open space. Discerning when to buy street food and when to spend $$$ in a museum shop for food. Finding a place in the shade when it is 100-degrees. What we were doing during each and every one of our adventures is instilling curiosity, resilience, and a certain fearlessness in seeking something new.
When Katie was 5 or 6, we decided that she was old enough to tackle hiking Ricketts Glen state park. This beautiful place has 22 named waterfalls and a 3-mile hiking loop that circles down in elevation and then back up. Having taken our kids on many such adventures, we were shocked when, after a 3-hour drive and a walk through the woods, we got to the top of the trail and Katie just sat down and refused to go any further. The noise coming off the falls was a bit intimidating, to be sure, but I think it was the giant step downward to the trail that made her freeze in her tracks. It was a good 2-foot drop. After this initial step, you could see the hewn-rock steps below that were not as daunting.
We got her past this first step, eventually. I can’t quite remember if it was my coaxing or my husband’s more direct approach, but we got her there. Maybe it was just the fact that her older sister showed no fear and took that first step in stride.
We need nudges like this in our spiritual lives. Perhaps a coaxing, or a gentle whisper, or a more direct approach will open our hearts to the ways in which God may be speaking to us at any particular moment. In the spiritual life, it may just be someone else’s example that gets us to move past fear. We can become paralyzed when we know that God is calling us to take a first step that enables us to know God in a more intimate way. In the beginning, curiosity can fuel us. Eventually we need resilience as the way becomes more difficult. In my own experience, I have seen people with immense trust in God who seem to have no fear. I’m not completely there yet. I know, though, that it is only with accepting the grace the God showers on me, that I will be able to take those frightening steps forward.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.