The other day, our two-year-old was looking through the pictures in his Baby’s First Bible and was making comments on the pictures he recognized. He was studying the picture from Noah’s Ark and he said joyfully, “Giraffe in boat!” When he flipped over a couple of pages, he sort of giggled and said, “Daddy, they’re naked!” Sure enough, he was looking at a picture of Adam and Eve, shoulders bared, standing behind some bushes in an animated Garden of Eden. As a two-year-old, naked is a concept that he grasps. I suspect he is like most two-year-olds in that he takes great delight in streaking through the house after a bath – so be warned if you come by our house at bath time! But, he also understands that for whatever reason, naked is not the norm for anyone other than he and all his little streaking toddler buddies!
While this is a long way from a significant spiritual breakthrough, it is a baby step to understanding our predicament as fallen humanity. Really, our entire walk of faith is characterized more by baby steps than by great leaps and bounds. No doubt, we may have an epiphany, a tremendous leap here or there, but most of our journey is taken precariously, step-by-step, learning as we go. Many times we simply fall down and have to get back up again.
Over the last couple of weeks, as we have worked through Mark 6 & 7, we’ve watched a group of young disciples trying to figure out exactly who it was that they were following. They had participated in great miracles, had been used in preaching the Kingdom of God. They had seen Jesus heal the sick, and walk on water, but they’ve still struggled with the significance of these things. They still doubted Jesus’ power to provide and his desire to deliver. In Mark 8:29, though, we finally see what looks like an epiphany moment.
Jesus interviewed his disciples to see where they were in their understanding. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answered him with the popular answers, “John, Elijah, a prophet.” But Peter made the statement we’ve been waiting for, “You are the Christ!” Fireworks and fanfare would follow such a statement in the movies, but then again, this isn’t Hollywood. What appears on paper to be a great leap of faith, in reality, is yet another baby step towards understanding. Just a few verses later, Peter revealed the depth of his understanding when he admonished Jesus for telling them the truth about his coming suffering. For Peter, Jesus may have been the Christ, but he was the Christ Peter wanted him to be, not the Christ that Jesus needed to be. So this wasn’t the spiritual milestone that we were hoping for, but it was a baby step toward understanding.
That should encourage all of us, who are much more familiar with the baby steps of discipleship, than we are with the epiphanies. It means in our walk with Christ, there is room for both confession and correction. We may have those aha moments, when things become suddenly lucid. But we should also be mindful of those moments when we fail and need Godly correction. When we consider the disciples over time, these bumbling, impulsive, and fearful men would become bold and fearless, willing to look death square in the eye for the sake of Christ. It took time, patience, and a willingness to surrender to the Holy Spirit to get there, but eventually, they did get there.
So, how’s your walk? Is it all you can do to put one foot in front of the other and not take a tumble? Good – at least you’re moving forward. That’s how the disciples grew. We should always remember, a baby-step of faith is far better than simply standing still.