Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (NIV)
"I can't, Dad," I cried. "I'm scared."
I'm not exactly sure how old I was when I uttered these words, but I do remember the circumstances with certainty. I was standing on the breakwater at Ingalls Head. On a post nearby, a gull perched to watch the proceedings while others swooped lazily overhead. Across from me, on a small island across the harbour, the Ross's Island light winked as its light circled and lit the way for the fishermen's safe return from their day on the water. Neither of these things terrified me; they were familiar and welcome. What terrified me was what I saw below me. The tide was out and the dark green water lapped at the sides of the boat, rocking it from side to side. My dad told me that he'd take me with him to the lobster car where he worked if I'd get in the boat. The only problem was that in order to get in the boat, I needed to climb down the ladder. I wanted to go, but the boat looked so far down. I'd never climbed down a ladder before, and I was afraid of falling. To make things worse, seaweed had wrapped itself around the rungs of the ladder, making it slimy to touch and slippery for my footing.
"I'll go first," my dad said. "I'll guide you and tell you where to put your feet. All you have to do is take one step at a time and hang on." So my dad went on the ladder, and I backed onto the first rung. Now instead of seeing the distance to the bobbing boat below, all I saw was my father's arms around me, surrounding me, and protecting me from falling, and his gentle voice directed my footsteps to the next rung.
As we consider the New Year, it may be that our journey will take us to places that we've never been before. It may be that we want to cry out and say, "I can't!" It's at times like this that our heavenly Father hears our cry. "I'll go first," He says. "I'll guide you and tell you where to put your feet. All you have to do is take one step at a time and hang on."
Today, let's not be tempted to look at the distance and the obstacles in our journey. Instead, let's visualize God's protecting arms around us and hear His gentle voice directing our footsteps.
Prayer: Dear God, the words in the hymn by Katharina von Schlegel best voice our prayer for the New Year:
- Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.