Twenty-three Decembers ago, my husband, our one-year-old son, and I moved to Pella, Iowa. When we were still in the shall-we-or-shall-we-not phase of the process, my dad mentioned that he thought that bald eagles wintered in that area. In a word, I was shocked. I’d grown up a mere hour-and-a-half from Pella and never, not once, had we gone to see these eagles. And we were that family, the one that pulled over on the side of the road to gawk at eagles—whether they were soaring in the sky or perched on an electrical pole.
So, of course, a couple of months after the big move, on a deceptively warmish February day, my husband and I decided to bundle up our boy and drive to the lake to see the eagles. We parked below the dam and walked out on a viewing platform over the Des Moines River with every expectation of seeing eagles soaring under a sunny sky. Well, the sun had disappeared, the wind had come up, and there was not one eagle to be seen.
We were going to have to look for the eagles.
I’m a fair-weather outdoors-person so, after looking for just a moment, I started steering our kiddo toward the warmth of the car. Meanwhile, my husband, more prepared and determined than I, pulled out a set of binoculars and got to work—methodically scanning the landscape for the elusive eagles. It wasn’t long before he started finding them. And it wasn’t much longer before he made the dreaded offer: He held out the binoculars out and asked if I wanted to look.
No. I didn’t want to look. I was cold. And I can never find things with binoculars. I am about as skilled with binoculars as a toddler with a tube of lipstick.
All that aside, I took the binoculars and began the process of trying to find tiny eagles in a huge landscape based on descriptors that never showed up in my field of vision. Since they weren’t in the sky, I assumed they were in the trees, hiding from the damp air swirling up from the river. I searched, but all I saw were squirrel nests scattered throughout the treetops.
Those, my husband informed me, were eagles.
I’d been looking and looking for eagles. I’d even seen them. But I hadn’t recognized them for what they were.
This resonates with how I live.
As I wind through the landscape of my life, seeking to navigate by faith, I see things—lots of things. What I don’t always do is recognize them for what they are: opportunities to approach them by faith. Or not.
We’re on a journey, you and I, day by day. Our steps matter.
When it comes to walking this way, the obvious difficulty is the not-by-sight part. Vision is the primary sense by which we navigate life. We like to see. I like to see.
But here’s what I’m learning: the primary obstacle to walking as I’m called to walk isn’t that I don’t see; it’s that I fail to recognize things for what they are—circumstances to be navigated by faith, one small step at a time.
Things are so much more than they seem.
The details of the day—especially the difficult ones—are more than something to get through. Disappointments are more than something to get over. And disagreements are more than something to get past. They make up the landscape of life, something we walk through by faith—or not.
I don’t know about you, but I’m most likely to see this all very clearly after. After the overwhelm starts to squeeze my soul—not to mention my heart and mind—like a boa constrictor bent on having me for lunch. After the melt-down that would rival a two-year-old’s. After the argument that I can’t even begin to feel like an adult about.
Everything is more than it seems. Everything is an opportunity. Our steps matter.
There is no simple-step formula for walking by faith, but there are small ones that help us keep on course. Here are three that are helping me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
- Notice Pay attention to what you’re walking through as you move through the details of your day. It’s easier to see when we’re paying attention.
- Name Is something warming your heart? Lifting your spirit? Wearing you down? Crushing your soul? What is it? Name it. Call it what it is. Be specific. Naming helps us recognize things for what they are.
- Ask What does it mean to walk through this (whatever it is) by faith? This takes the focus away from whatever the difficulty is and helps me fix my eyes on Jesus—the author and perfecter of the faith we’re called to walk by.
Small steps, taken with our eyes on Jesus, are how we make it through difficult days, unexpected blessings, and long seasons by faith. Whatever you’re facing, ask him how to walk through it. He knows.
And you? What steps help you keep your course?
There is no simple-step formula for walking by faith, but there are small ones that help us keep on course.