Have you ever noticed how toddlers, when they are navigating tricky terrain get really low? They bend their knees, get their centre of gravity closer to the ground. If you have littles in your life, take a look at how they learn to walk on new ground.
When our kids were little, they insisted on climbing – as high and as often as they could. Especially that younger one. We would stand back and watch them navigate the unfamiliar terrain. We would watch all the unfamiliar ways they had to move their bodies to get over those rocks, roots, steep gravelly paths. And we would always give this advice: “Go low and slow, low and slow.”
This was our short hand for “Get closer to the ground, get your centre of gravity down and take your time. You don’t have to rush your next steps” …..Low and Slow.
This keeps coming to my mind as fall approaches. For me personally, a mom, sending two kids back to school after 6 months. I know their school and teachers will be amazing – of that I have no doubt – but even the knowledge that pandemic-ifying their social and academic education is going to change things makes my heart do pitter-patters. Add to that how my colleagues and I are figuring out how to reopen a church, how to do church meaningfully and well with less resources, less consistency, and more risk. And the through line for every leader of every kind now is how we enter and lead through huge cultural shifts and through the battles happening everywhere we look. Over masks. Over racism. Over just economics. Over who has the grip on the real truth. Anxieties are high and certainty is a hot commodity. Certainty sells like hotcakes.
But faith, in the summer of 2020, requires more letting go than claiming certainty. Like it did when I was letting my kids learn how to navigate boulders and cliffs. I had to let go and trust that they had to learn what their bodies could do. Guiding them with my voice and being there, just in case. But they had to keep going themselves. I could not make the outcome a certainty. Well, I could have – by picking them up, or not letting them try at all – but then nothing would have been gained , no new skill, no new way of being able to live and move and be in the world would be had for them– only certainty of a singular kind.
Letting go of expectations. Letting go of guaranteed outcomes. Letting go of certainty. In exchange for life and presence and moving forward into the something new. You can only go “farther up and farther in” if you let go of certainty. And start to trust. This is the life of the called.
But even with that, maybe there is a bit of advice for us. From a couple of parents who love to watch their kids learn.
Get low and go slow.
In times of high anxiety and uncertainty, instead of gripping certainty, keep walking – but get low. Get close to the ground. Move your centre of gravity lower – you are more stable that way; you can handle rougher terrain that way.
This is both literal and metaphorical.
Do things that ground you. Live in your body more. Eat real food. Drink cold water. Walk outside every day. See true and real things that aren’t always filtered through screens and algorithms, click bait and echo chambers.
Get low, close to the real ground with real people who are telling you their real experiences.
Get humble. See yourself and your circumstances in perspective. Listen to others well. Make space for them in your own heart. Place less of your identity in a singular frame and see it as part of a whole – a whole community of people made in the image of God.
Get low – get outside. Do not worry! Jesus said. Look at the birds! Jesus said. Get low and notice the real life surrounding you that you overlook in the hustle. Get low so that you can recover easier when you do misstep. Get low to see your truest place in the cosmos – wonderfully made and not alone and tasked with a new path.
And go slow. Consider your next steps well. Contemplate often. The hustle lies to us. Life happens in the unseen bits that are rushed by no thing. Babies in wombs, seeds in earth. Slow is not an impediment to life. Notice the ground underneath you. Don’t take stability for granted. Weigh out consequences. Truly see your surroundings. And Don’t stop. Don’t get paralyzed. But go slow. Reclaim your time – it’s yours to use as you see fit – use it by learning to climb unknown territory well.
Know that your sustainable pace will be your best friend in hard to navigate places.
Getting low and going slow. They are the tools to navigate uncertainty. They are tools of faith. They are what I’m taking into this fall. Not for certainty’s sake but for Christ’s sake in the rewilding of this world. Go low and slow in this world of racial reckoning and real change in our systems. Go low and slow in this new world of new ways to do economy, community, vocation and school in pandemic times – this whole new world might just be beautiful. It might just be something new and open up whole new paths for us.
And, well, we don’t have a choice – this hard to navigate terrain is the path we are on.
So Like a toddler who doesn’t need certainty, and who wants to see what might be over the next boulder, I will keep going. And I’ll know that getting low and going slow will only serve me well. And I know that I am never alone. Like a momma watching her kid with that eagle eye of love, that good God is never far from me.