I love to watch parents helping their little ones learn how to walk. From sitting to crawling, to standing, to walking, and then finally running...the entire process brings such joy to both child and parent alike. When the child takes his first step there is such rejoicing and applause. It is officially recorded in the memory book, with photos and much fanfare. Of course that initial step is followed by a fall, but the attentive father swoops the baby up in his arms and covers him with kisses and encouragement.
Usually the next phase begins when the father walks behind the child, as the little one grasps one of dad's fingers in each hand — as a means of both balance and security. Then the proud father tries sitting a few feet away from the child with arms outstretched: "Come to papa." The rejoicing begins again as the child stumbles across the room and falls into the arms of his beaming daddy. Practice makes perfect, and so before long the child thinks he is able to walk all alone.So he he gives it a try and usually takes some nasty falls. But the concerned dad no longer swoops him up, rather he watches from a distance. Baby needs to be a "big boy" now and get up all by himself. No more holding onto dad's fingers, baby has to learn balance without security. No more applause and kisses for each accomplished step, but baby must keep walking. Then that baby can run!
Our entire spiritual life can be encapsulated in the above scenario. We see in natural fatherhood a glimpse of the perfect and eternal Fatherhood of God. We are His little ones who crawl before we walk and who stumble before we run. Like the father mentioned above, the Lord will often pour out His love and encouragement upon us when we are just beginning to walk in the spiritual life. Like the unsteady babe, He 'swoops' us up in His arms and with such tenderness wipes away every tear of discouragement and fear. "Try again," He seems to say, "It's worth it!"
This encourgaement continues as we take our baby steps in the spiritual life. Each step IS important and is noted with love. At the end of each spiritual walk, we fall clumsily into the arms of our Father. The life of virtue almost seems easy because of the splendid reward of our Father's embrace. Sometimes the Father allows us to just rest there in His lap, after a long walk of virtue. Exhausted but content, we aren't thinking of our stumbling but only of wanting to be with our Abba!
Then we walk, with 'His fingers in hand,' we think that we can run a spiritual marathon. Yet, we fail to recognize that the Father is still holding onto our hands and steadying us every step of the way. We still hear Him whispering in our ear as we walk: "Way to go...You can do it." But then what happens when He pulls those steadying fingers away. Fall upon fall, amd unwiped tears. Does the Father not care about us? Everything is dark and it seems as though we have been abandoned to our own limitations. How difficult it is to live the equation of 'Balance without security' = faith. Truly, we must WALK BY FAITH. But why does the Father pull away the tangible experiences of His Presence; why does He not swoop us up in His arms each time we stumble; where are the encouraging consolations in prayer? Baby has to grow up! We can't always be children in the spiritual life. Yes, we MUST always depend upon the Father for everything, but this must be done for the right motives. According to St. John of the Cross, it cannot be for the consolations of God but for the God of all consolation. We must love Him purely and in the darkness of faith, for in this life we are called to that walk of blind faith. This is the only way that we will be spiritually mature. This is the only way that we will learn how to run, "to run so as to win." I love you, Family.
In Jesus and Mary,
Deacon Bill Steltemeier
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, EWTN Global Catholic Network
PS: Everything, absolutely everything, that happens in our life is the Father's will. Let the Father's will be your WILL and be at peace!