The Fear Is In The First Step . . .

first steps

“Sometimes, when we’re most afraid, the only thing necessary to conquer our fears is the courage to take the smallest step forward and confront them.” 

Inscription for The Bunt

Ask anyone who’s stared down a “demon” in their life or confronted what, in the moment, seemed like an insurmountable obstacle and virtually all of them will readily acknowledge that the most frightful step on the sometimes long, often arduous, but always life-affirming road to recovery (or overcoming) is the first one. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s why we’re introduced to that fear at such a young age (usually around 10 – 11 months) and, almost simultaneously, the limitless vistas that await us if we’re willing to trust in our ability (and muster the courage necessary) to push through that fear and take the step. It’s also likely the reason, lest we doubt our ability, that we’re afforded the chance to “practice” taking the next one (and the one after it) an average of 5,200 – 7,200 times a day everyday thereafter!

Dear Ashley,

I doubt there are many challenges that you confronted as a 10-month-old child that were more difficult or more intimidating than the prospect of taking your first step. I suspect that, like most of us, you had grown pretty comfortable with life on all fours.

Sure it had its limitations. For one thing, your perspective on the world was limited to what was 10″ off the ground, which undoubtedly made life a little scarier than it needed to be. It also meant that lots of things that probably looked pretty intriguing were out of your reach. Finally, even as quick as you had gotten at crawling (and you were pretty quick) it would never compare to the speed with which you could get from point A to point B if you could walk, let alone run!

But there was also a comfort level there that couldn’t be overlooked. Most importantly, there was no risk of falling.  You were firmly planted on the ground at all times, which meant that, aside from an occasional rug burn or an inadvertent shot to the side of the head by an inattentive foot, you were largely insulated from harm. You also knew that if you really needed to get from point A to point B faster or wanted something slightly out of your reach, you could simply make a face or pitch a fit and chances were someone would scoop “Your Cuteness” up and take you wherever you needed to go. Still, at some point, you decided that the benefits of walking outweighed the comforts of crawling, and so you began to entertain the idea of taking that first step.

I’ll bet if Mom and I had been able to tap into your mind during those initial strategy sessions, we would have encountered the same range of thoughts and emotions that you have most recently been experiencing as you struggle with your eating disorder – apprehension, fear, uncertainty, curiosity, excitement, anticipation – just to name a few.  And yet with all that stuff swimming around in your head, you set out on your journey.

You crawled over to a small table, and using all your strength, pulled yourself up to a standing (well, sort of standing?!?) position. Step 1 accomplished – a big smile that said: “I’m proud of me!”  Then came the first letting go – a bobble, a wobble, a look of sheer terror, and back on the ground. Perhaps a tear or two because it was supposed to hurt to fall, but then, an instant later, the realization that the falling wasn’t that bad after all. A moment to regroup, then back to the table.

Another pull-up – a step, a bobble, a wobble, that same smile as you steadied yourself, and then another step. A stumble, and then another fall, but this time no tears – instead, a smile, twice as big as the first that said “I got this!”  An internal pat on the back – and then quickly back to that table leg.  This time you were up in a flash . . . you steadied yourself, delivered a look of determination (by the way, I’ve since seen that same exact look a time or two (thousand) in the past 19 years!), a step, no bobble, no wobble, and then another step, and then another, and another.

You did it, and while, like all of us, you have mostly taken it for granted, you have done it again and again and again innumerable times since then. And you know what? Because you’ve had lots of practice, you can do it again.  I love you, Ashley, for every step you have taken in your life since that first one, and I encourage you to take the next one (and the one after that) with confidence in you and the God who created you!

With All My Love,


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