I have been thinking about the idea of a first step. I am not sure what has prompted that idea, perhaps it is watching my grandchildren growing up, perhaps its watching students graduating university and starting their careers, perhaps its watching newlyweds and young families beginning to write their own stories. I have friends who are starting new business ventures, planting churches, and changing careers and all of these require a first step.
Neil Armstrong took a first step and became famous for it. Do you remember those famous words, “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind”? The whole world watched. Last month, in the midst of a peak in COVID-19 cases, we watched two astronauts take off from Cape Canaveral in a new spaceship, a first of its kind. There is something spectacular about a first step. We are all drawn to the drama, excitement, risk and joy of a first step. There are several characteristics about first steps that are worth noting.
A first step is typically a milestone. There is something memorable about the first step. You typically remember first steps because of their significance. A first step is usually associated with a new vision. Think about what motivates that first step; it’s the desire to shake up the current situation, change the status quo. You get tired of crawling and now want to walk. A first step is a first to a new journey. Once we take that first step, we find that it takes us to new places, new experiences, new relationships etc. My first step to the alter awaiting my bride to walk down the isle was just that, a new and wonderful journey, but it took a first step. A first step is intentional; typically you are not pushed into a new step, but you may be encouraged to take one. Others perhaps have modeled it for you, inspired you and paved a path for your new step, but eventually, you must make that decision: will I take the first step? Lastly, a first step takes courage. Since our journey is unknown, there may be much fear associated with the first step. Sometimes, though we may not like the status quo, we have learned to cope with it and, therefore, tend to never take the first step.
Biblical first steps
The Bible speaks of first steps. I am reminded of some statements that speak of first steps. For example, King David reflects in a poem that God’s Word is a lamp unto my/your feet and a light unto my/your path (Psalm 119:105). The implication is that life is a journey. We are on a path that we have never been down before, and sometimes it gets dark and mysterious. Our first steps turn into next steps when we see where we are going, and God is that guide. I also think of another passage where the Apostle Paul talks about keeping in step with God (His Spirit). My first steps that turn into next steps must have a certain cadence to them, and God is the one that provides that, much like a metronome does to someone composing music on a piano, a tool to help set the tempo. In the Bible, I can think of many who took first steps.
- Adam and Eve took a first step with God in the Garden.
- Joseph took a first step as he started running away from Potiphar’s wife.
- Moses took a first step toward a burning bush and heard God’s plan for his life.
- David took a first step toward the giant Goliath to have a God-sized victory.
- Naaman took a first step into a dirty river and was healed of his disease.
- Joseph took a first step and cared for Mary as his wife rather than divorce her.
- Jesus took a first step, on water (imagine that).
- Peter took a first step towards Jesus, when he heard the words, “Follow me.”
- Mary took a first step, early one Sunday morning, towards the empty tomb.
- Paul took a first step from the home of Ananias, free from his physical and spiritual blindness, to start a new adventure.
I remember taking a first step, in a small town in Switzerland when I decided to pray a simple prayer and asked Jesus to come into my heart, not really knowing what I was doing except that my father had invited me to consider this, and I thought it was the right thing to do, never regretting that moment and forever grateful to my parents for that invitation to a first step.
Considering a first step
Today, perhaps some of you are considering a first step, perhaps you have already taken one, or you have forgotten the sense of wonder that comes from a first step. I know that you will be tempted along the way to stop walking, to turn around or to forget the importance of this journey you’re on. Be inspired by those who have taken first steps. Consider how you have benefited from someone else’s first step. Perhaps you are paying a price for someone who took a misstep and you desire to avoid the same mistake. Perhaps you may have forgotten the moment you took that first step and the sense of wonder you felt at the time.
I would challenge your imagination to ponder the why of that first step and the who was taking it. Ponder where that step is taking you. Do not underestimate the journey and adventure that awaits you as you take it. You have been entrusted with a treasure from God, and that treasure is to be lived out, experienced and shared. I know that your first step will be followed by many steps, and there will be a day that you will look back and simply say, “only God, He is faithful.”
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.