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Real Life: Why is it so hard to take the first step?


Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to reach out?  To take the first step in getting to know someone?  Here’s my story:

We rarely saw her for the first year.  Fall, winter and then spring passed by and we may have seen her one time.  Occasionally lights illuminated the front window or her garage door was left open but rarely did we ever see her.  We were her neighbors, but merely through proximity, that’s it.

We knew a widow lived there because she had been introduced to us the first week we moved in, but we knew nothing more about her.  We couldn’t remember her name, didn’t know her needs and had never heard her story.  She was there and lived her life… we were here and lived ours.

I often wonder how long it would have taken my wife and I to get to know her, if it hadn’t been for an unexpected winter storm.

The Storm

During the spring a major ice storm hit the area leaving branches and downed tree limbs everywhere. With nothing to do, the neighbor next door started cutting up tree branches and cleaning up near by yards.  I noticed he helped clean up her yard across the street.

Four weeks after the storm we got a knock on our door.  It was her, my widowed neighbor who we will call Carol.

“I saw you with a chain saw during the storm cutting up trees.  Thanks for cutting up my branches.  Do you think you could help me remove a few dead bushes from my yard?”    (I wanted to take credit for chopping up the trees in her yard but told her it was actually the other neighbor.)  I also told Carol that I would definitely help her with the bushes.

Can I really help?

I honestly had no idea how to help her.  I don’t have a chain saw, and in fact have never used one.   I have no clue about cutting down trees and bushes and had no idea what we would do with the dead bushes after we removed them.  But I knew this would be an opportunity to get to know Carol, as a person.   Something long over due.

Why had it taken so long to reach out and get to know Carol?  Worse yet, why had it taken her hobbling over to our house to initiate the friendship!  Our good intentions had become blinded by our lack of initiative.

It wasn’t a heart thing.   It was a priority thing.

Why are first steps often so difficult to take?  Why didn’t we get to know Carol months ago?  I’m sure I am not alone feeling this way.  Many people if honest would probably say, yeah taking initiative is what holds me back from reaching out to get to know people as well.

We all have our reasons for putting off first steps.

But let’s be honest… none of them are really good enough.

Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About John

John Warden, our Director of Mission Initiatives, provides oversight and training for the TCT - Local program. John has had the opportunity to work with Christians around the world in elements of worldview, poverty, outreach and wholistic ministry. Join us in this initiative to reach and love the world around us for God’s glory.

3 thoughts on “Real Life: Why is it so hard to take the first step?

  1. The thing that strikes me about your story, and my own experiences, is God’s goodness is breaking through our barriers — whether that is lack of initiative or something else. He doesn’t just tell us to take the first step and then stand back and watch critically to see if we manage it. He lovingly takes us by the hand and nudges, pulls, pushes, or launches us if need be. Power to love comes from Him, and opportunities to love come from Him.

    I easily fall into guilt and self-criticism for not doing more…and then swing into trying to perform for God by doing it all. Finally, utterly exhausted, I retreat back into self-service, afraid to try again and ashamed at my failure. This is what it’s like to try to serve others in my own strength.

    How do we take initiative, not miss opportunities to love and serve, but also avoid the trap of try-hard religion? How do we enjoy those first steps, wobbly as they might be?

  2. Hi Glynka,

    Thanks for your comments. You formulate some great questions. I am sure many of us can relate to your struggles.

    Taking initiative is not easy. Just yesterday I saw Carol (my friend across the street) walking in her front yard and I thought “I haven’t talked with her for a week, I should go out and say hi.” In the moment I thought “what if I get dragged into a 30 minute conversation about her health issues…” but then I reminded myself, it’s about the relationship. Maybe she needs to talk to someone about her health issues. I am here, why not me? My care for her concerns might be the only small glimpse of the kingdom she receives today.

    My initiative yesterday came with a little fear (about my time), and it would have been easy to pass it off as a task for another day. But the reality is my fears and hesitations yesterday were based off of my own personal agenda. Sometimes I think we need to restructure our lives around what we know to be God’s agenda and not our own. When we do this, I think we will begin to feel the freedom that comes along with following God. It’s in those moments we find great joy. In success or failure I believe the wobbly steps become enjoyable first steps because they have been God lead and God ordained.

    How do we not miss the opportunities? I think it is as simple and complex as prayer. “Lord give me the eyes to see what you see.” Having that prayer on the forefront of your mind will keep you keenly aware of the opportunities around you. You’ll miss some, you bet. Repent and move on. There may be another right around the corner.

    We will forever struggle to balance our knowledge of wanting to serve and our human desire of wanting to be served. It’s natural and to be expected.

    Be blessed in your efforts! God is using your initiative to build His kingdom!

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