I remember being in kindergarten and learning how to write. I sat at my square desk with my feet dangling below, and staring up at the chalkboard, my teacher wrote each letter in her flawless teacher handwriting. I marveled at how perfect each line and curve looked as they came together to form real letters and words and was always excited for my turn to take a shot at it. Sadly, whenever I tried to copy the letters into my black and white speckled composition book, it never looked quite the same. I gripped the big yellow number two pencil, hard pressed between my shaky fingers, and lowered my head to hover just inches above my best attempt. Legible at best, but unrefined and obviously in need of improvement.
Now, 25 years later, my handwriting still hasn’t improved much and still kind of resembles that of a little five-year-old girl’s…with chubby fingers. But I now know, more or less, how to write. Today, I can write long elaborate sentences, journals full of endless and somewhat incoherent thoughts, somewhat scholarly essays, tedious books reports, and quite possibly my own book. And how did I get here? One letter at a time.
These days, I am teaching my own children how to write. I watch them awkwardly hold their pencil, get flustered and frustrated when their marks go too far off the line, and every once in awhile let out deep sighs of pride when they think they’ve gotten it just right. All the while, I cheer them on and often say, “well done!” Then when they catch me writing pages upon page of words they can’t read, much less write, they are a little intimidated. They have that question of, “could I do this?” And while I know that they can, they are not so sure, so I smile and encourage them gently. “One day you will be able to write like this, probably even better.”
Marathoners don’t become runners over night. They train one mile, one block, one step at a time. My dad first taught me that when he challenged me to my first 5K run. I didn’t think I could do it, but as I wrenched with pain somewhere early on, my dad kept screaming, “one more step! ..one more step!” This eventually turned into a thousand more steps or however many more until we ran the whole thing and finally reached the end. In that moment, I realized he was right. It really was one more step. Then another step. And another step. Then we were done.
That day, he told me he knew I could run a marathon one day. Although I smiled up at him, I didn’t believe him really. How could anyone run 26 miles? But years later, I did it, and the entire time, I kept telling myself, “one more step.” And then I was done.
For some people, if not most, every day is an uphill battle. Sickness after sickness, sin, brokenness, lack of purpose, lack of joy, or just simply being bone tired. Every once in awhile there is some reprieve, but hardly enough to fill the void and pain that seems to rule most of life. Some lives are tragically ended too early for this very reason. People are tired of pain, tired of trying. In my own personal seasons of difficulty, I sometimes can’t help dip into dreary thoughts as well. I imagine the rest of my days before me and just wonder what other hardships might come my way. I, too, feel exhausted. Other times, I just don’t feel like I’m doing life well and can’t seem to get it right. I can’t make perfect o’s and my life feels more like that five-year-old, unrefined, rather sloppy kind of quality, no matter how hard I try.
But thanks be to God, life too is just a series of one-more-step’s. We can take one day at a time, one step after another on solid group as the Lord parts the sea for us to walk through His miracles, His providence, His faithfulness in life. It may never appear to be as pretty or polished as we would like it and more difficult than we think we can handle at times, but ONE STEP…. we can do.
One more step. One more step. One. More. Step. And then we will be done. And words cannot express how I wish for that moment for the Lord to receive me into His arms and to say, “well done, Irene.” To that end, I press on.