Daniel and I recently attended a family celebration in honor of his nephew’s first birthday. Colin himself was underwhelmed by the occasion (although he was pretty excited about the chocolate cake and the ensuing opportunity to make a mess with the frosting). Eventually, with some enticement from us grown-ups, he did start getting into the gifts (or at least the wrapping paper and boxes), but for the most part he didn’t seem to know what all the fuss was about.
After the birthday boy went to bed, the rest of us sat around the table reflecting on how much Colin had changed over the past year—and how much he had changed us. As we talked, it occurred to me that the celebration of the first year is as much about the people who love the kid as it is about the kid himself.
We went around the table listing adjectives that describe our 15 pounds of charm and came with this list: adventurous, determined, focused, sweet, flexible, curious, daring, funny, hammy, independent, cuddly. And fearless.
There was no question about fearless. In fact, he’d proved it earlier that day at his own party.
Perhaps we owe Colin’s impeccable timing to the fact that he’s a bit of a ham, but sure enough, he waited to take his first steps until there was an adequate audience. Then, right between cake and presents, he stood up on the blanket in the grass and showed off his first steps to the adoring crowd, over and over again. The more we clapped and cheered him on, the braver he became, the more consecutive steps he took.
As I watched him learn to walk—toppling to the side, lunging forward into his mom’s arms, or plopping backward with only his diaper for padding—I thought how smart God is to have us learn this rather treacherous skill as babies. Colin doesn’t have enough life experience yet to be afraid. He doesn’t know that falling and failing are pretty much guaranteed when you’re learning something new. And he doesn’t know how much it can hurt sometimes.
I have a few years on Colin, but there are some things I need to learn from him (or maybe things I need to unlearn). Because here’s the thing: when I try so hard to prevent myself from falling—to self-protect from failure and pain—I miss out on the next steps, the new adventures God has in mind for me. And I deprive myself of the thrill of lunging forward, childlike, into the arms of grace—into the arms of someone who loves me.
So here’s to Colin. Here’s to being one, to being fearless. Here’s to toddling—to falling and failing. If that’s what it takes to learn the next baby steps before me, then count me in.
But I still may look into some padding for my backside, if it’s all the same to everyone else.
We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.
—2 Corinthians 4:9