What About Joe?

In the movie “What About Bob,” Richard Dreyfus plays a psychiatrist who just wrote a book called “Baby Steps.” He is introduced to Bob, played by Bill Murray, who is in desperate need of a big mental health breakthrough. After their first session, Bob is taking literal baby steps out of the office and just generally takes the concept a bit too far. Many shenanigans and much hilarity ensue for the remainder of the movie. It’s a good movie, check it out.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

At our community group last night, a topic came up about peace and the conversation took a little bit of a turn towards identity in Christ. It’s a topic that I really struggle with. It’s hard to fathom that God would actually want a person like me as a part of His family. Like many people, I have a past. There are things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of. Some of my experiences still linger in the back of my mind at times. I feel like I’m not good enough for God to accept me as a part of His family. I know that Scripture says that “So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household.” (Eph. 2:19), but it’s still hard to wrap my mind around ME being deserving of that.

This brought about another round of introspection, something I’ve done a tremendous amount of this year. I looked back at the past year and really tried to see what God has had in store for me. And this brought me back farther, but just a few years. You see, God has been preparing me for some time. I haven’t really noticed, but he’s been giving me some gentle nudges here and there, guiding me slowly to where I need to be spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

After we started attending our current church, I had made a commitment to myself, I’m not sure I ever said it aloud, to be more plugged in and involved. We soon had the opportunity to join a community group and be more plugged in. Being the kind of introvert that makes other introverts uncomfortable, I knew that God had a sense of humor. I can almost imagine Him laughing at the way my mind immediately wanted to go into to full on introvert mode and hide. It took some time, but eventually, I was able to become comfortable enough to share a few things here and there. That group prepared me for the what was coming in a few months with my heart attack and surgery and marriage issues further down the road. They provided love and a strong, faith backed support system for us through some very difficult times.

Skip ahead a bit, and then I got this idea to write a book. Not knowing how to go about it, I wasn’t sure of what the first step could possibly be. I wrote an outline and started to write an introduction and a bit of a chapter or two. It hit me that my pastor has written a couple of books, so I thought maybe he could guide me a bit. We have coffee and talk about faith, life and the writing/publishing process which ultimately lead to this blog.

From the beginning, I had wanted this to be about my faith journey, good and bad. I had made a commitment that I would share my path, regardless of what it was. I still wasn’t very good about opening up about emotions and feelings, and the thought that I would do that on here for anyone on the internet to read hadn’t really crossed my mind. It was February of 2022 when I started this.

Soon after, my son had some issues that required hospitalization, several times actually. I was having chest pains, which turned out to be a much bigger and less fixable problem than I would have liked to hear. Finances have been rough. Life was just throwing one big curve ball after another (actually I think much of it was the enemy attacking me and my family because of the moves towards faith that we were taking, but I digress).

It’s hard to think of things to write about. Sometimes I have a great idea, and then look and see that I’ve already done it. I was having some trouble coming up with things, especially with what life was throwing at me. I wasn’t at my best mentally and emotionally and I would struggle more with my faith than I would have expected. Laying in bed, a little voice reminded me that I had made a commitment to share my journey, regardless of how strong I felt my faith was. And I knew that I had to start writing about my struggles.

Through the introspection and reflection that would follow a life event, I was able to really evaluate my faith and where I was. I could look at the situation and see much more than I would have a year before, when I wasn’t assessing my faith and searching for answers to the questions to or about God that I was struggling to find answers for. I was able to see everything from a slightly different perspective and see that my faith was stronger than the enemy was telling me. When I felt that I had nothing left, I could see that it was a lie and that God was making sure that I had enough strength and support to fight through it and be a little better when that battle was over.

A devotion that my wife and I are doing together is about changing your mindset. One topic was changing behaviors. If you want to chop down a tree, just cutting a few branches off won’t get rid of the tree. You have to get the tree knocked down and make sure to get all of the roots out of the ground, or else it may come back. You have to be able to identify what the root of the behavior is in order to make sure that you dig it all out and keep it from coming back.

So what’s taken root in my life? Earlier this year, I was faced with my own mortality again. I know that everyone dies eventually, but I didn’t want to think that it could be before I had lived a long and full life. The thought that my life could be cut short (I’m 39, so not super short, just shorter than I’d like) was a hard pill to swallow. I’d been taking my medications and trying to eat better and do some things that would help my heart get healthier. I was shocked to hear that things had gotten worse and there was nothing the doctors could do, other than just treat the symptoms. My heart failure wasn’t going to improve.

Naturally, I had a really hard time with it and wrote about it quite a bit here. It’s been a difficult mountain to climb for me. It’s something that still gets me very emotional and that I struggle with more than I realize at times.

I’ve laid awake much of this year, just waiting to be so tired that I’d just pass out for the night. I’ve blamed financial issues and work stress. I’ve thought that if life calmed down a little bit, I could get a good night’s rest finally. But what has taken root? I’ve slept like a baby through difficult financial times and work struggles in the past. Is this really what’s keeping me up at night?

It hit me last night, as I lay awake, awaiting my late night/early morning pass out. When I first got my diagnosis, I would lay in bed and I was very aware of what my heart was doing. Each time it would go slightly out of rhythm or beat a little too hard (very easy to notice when you’re terrified of a heart attack) I would wonder if I should wake up my wife and tell her I loved her one last time. I would lay in bed, in a mild panic wondering if this was it. I’d wonder “If I go to sleep now, will I see tomorrow?” so many times that I think I just subconsciously wanted to stay awake, just in case I wouldn’t see the sun again.

Those fears took deep root quickly. They rooted themselves so deep that I hadn’t even noticed them for some time. But God has been calling me towards a path on my journey for some time.

He knew what was going to happen in my life and knows what’s coming. He got me to go to a different church. He got me to join a community group. He got me to be able to open up about my emotions. He knew that I would need to take baby steps to get me to where He is ultimately calling me. Two years ago, I would have never been able to tell strangers about fears that keep me up at night or the fact that I lay awake and cry for seemingly no reason. But here I am.

He’s been trying to get me to a place where I can feel secure in the fact that I am a part of His family. He guides me like a loving father trying to get his kid ready to remove the training wheels from their first bike. He’s there when I feel lost and alone. He provides me with what I need both financially and emotionally. I don’t always see what He does in the background to be a good father, but he’s always there, despite what I may feel I deserve. He welcomes me to the table like the story of the Prodigal Son, a father who’s overjoyed that I’ve come home.

Do I deserve to be a part of God’s family? No. That’s the whole point of grace. He gives us a gift that none of us deserve, simply because He loves us. We don’t deserve to be in His presence, but He still calls us to Him and has sent His son so that we can find the way home to Him.

I don’t think that God calls us to make gigantic leaps of faith very often. Don’t get me wrong, He certainly does call some to those leaps of faith. He doesn’t always call us to leave our career, sell our home, move to a foreign country whose language we don’t know and be missionaries. I believe that God normally calls us to take baby steps. Just a small step with your right foot and then another small step with your left. Go to a different church where you can connect. Join a community group. Baby steps.

If you keep taking baby steps, they add up. You may think you’re not getting anywhere, but when you look up and see where you are, you may be amazed at just how far you’ve really come. Those baby steps can be those little tiny things you hear in the back of your mind that you quickly dismiss and decide that you can’t do. It’s very easy for the enemy to convince us that we can’t talk to a group of people or write a blog. It’s very easy for the enemy to convince us that we don’t have time to mentor someone or take a class on something that interests us. He knows that those baby steps can be very powerful and he wants us to stay right where we are.

What baby steps do you feel God calling you to take? What’s keeping you from taking that next baby step?

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