Every person on this planet—except, perhaps, Adam and Eve—crawls on their belly, and hands and knees before walking upright. As I read Genesis, it sounds as if Adam and Eve were created as physically mature adults. Were they intellectually and spiritually mature as well?
Just imagine: no brush burns on your tummy and knees, no boo boos from falling down or stumbling into things, no swats for touching no-nos. They had it easy, but blew their unfair advantage, and made life difficult for everyone.
I take care of my grandson one day a week and so have the opportunity to watch Evan’s progression from helpless infant to soon-to-be toddler. Like most babies, Evan’s curiosity is boundless and fuels his constant motion. I erect barriers with furniture and pillows and when he is unable to circumnavigate or climb over them, he screams in protest.
When set free to explore, Evan scoots across the hardwood floors like a swimmer sprinting across a pool. While he is quite capable of crawling on his hands and knees, Evan prefers to scoot, pulling himself forward with his arms. The main advantage of this mode of travel is the ease of flipping himself around quickly to head off in a different direction. As he swooshes around, he reminds me of a duck on water, turning this way and that, creating nary a ripple.
Evan has his sights set on all things outside his reach. He’ll climb a pile of pillows on the sofa, just to see what’s going on outside or to gain a more advantageous vantage point of his environs. He grunts and groans as he exerts himself, but nothing stops the kid. Up, up, up he goes. If I’m holding him on my lap or in my arms, he is compelled to break loose and creep up my torso. If I didn’t have a firm grasp, he’d plummet headlong over the summit of my shoulder.
Remember those old Popeye cartoons in which Sweet Pea would climb out onto a flagpole, or some other equally perilous place? Popeye would down a can of spinach and dash to the infant’s rescue. Well, Evan is my Sweet Pea. His daddy, Matt, did little crawling and took to his feet at nine months of age. He got himself into some heart-stopping situations in which I assumed the role of Popeye (I relied on adrenalin rather than spinach). Just thinking about Matt’s precocity still makes me shudder and I pray that Evan will not follow in his daddy’s fearless footsteps.
Spiritually, when we were infants, God cradled us in his arms, infusing us with his palpable love. When we were toddlers, God held our hands and provided boundaries and caregivers to keep us safe. Throughout childhood, our spiritual caregivers introduced us to the Bible, schooled us in the Ten Commandments, and, hopefully, taught us about God’s love and grace. During our adolescence, God provided priests and prophets (aka, parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, etc.) to guide and direct our spiritual growth.
And, throughout our adulthood, God continues to cradle us when we’re confused; hold our hands and provide boundaries when we act immaturely; deepen our understand of his Word; and provide spiritual mentors and walking buddies when we are rebellious, or get in over our heads by acting without thinking. We are never completely spiritually mature, but God meets us where we are.
In many ways, I will always be a crawler, creeping along at a snail’s pace, slow to learn and hesitant to trust in God. Even so, my Heavenly Walking Buddy has eyes in the back of his head, and he has my back. Oh, he let’s me take my spills from time to time, but always—always—he calls me to grow and heal, and survive and thrive spiritually. His arms are wide open, whether I sprint or crawl in his grace.
“I am with you always.”