I had the privilege of watching grandchild number 4 take his first steps a few weeks ago. He will never remember that moment, but we have it preserved in photos and videos. After a month of standing up holding onto tables, legs, chairs, dogs, walls and anything else in reach, he not only let go, but took his first steps forward. I could tell from his face that he was thrilled, excited, tentative and delighted all at the same time. So were we! After those first few steps, he fell back on his diaper-padded bottom, ready to get up and try again.
I doubt if any of us remember our first few steps. But there are other first “steps” we do remember, vivid and forward-moving moments in life. Here’s a few that I recall:
- The first time I rode a bike. No training wheels here. Dad got me up and going for real on a local playground. I was thrilled, delighted, excited and terrified when I couldn’t remember how to apply the brake. No problem. A set of old-fashioned metal monkey bars brought me to a complete stop, ending my very first bike ride.
- The first time I broke a bone. Actually the only time I’ve broken a bone. I was on the glider seat of a swing set in the neighbor’s yard, put my foot down to stop, but had it bend backwards a little too far. It swelled up and hurt, but I went to school the next day. After limping around too much, my mom took me to the doctor who x-rayed the fracture and wrapped it up in a plaster cast for the next four weeks.
- The first time I bought a dog for myself. I was living in New Jersey, was sharing a house with a friend from church, and decided I could get a dog. After considering many breeds, I concluded I wanted a yellow Labrador Retriever. I wanted a large dog I could run and play with. I found an ad in the paper and headed for a house about an hour away in the pine barrens of south Jersey. When I arrived, I got to sit in in the middle of a litter of thirteen Labrador puppies, some yellow, some black. I picked out a yellow that didn’t seem too shy too aggressive. Since he was only six weeks old, the owner wrote a number on his tummy with an indelible marker, and I went back in two weeks to pick up my first dog, Gabriel.
- The first sermon I preached at my current church, Shepherd of the Coast in Palm Coast, NJ. I don’t remember my other first sermons, but this one sticks in my mind. It was based on 1 Peter 3:15, being ready to give an answer for the hope you have. I had just driven from West Des Moines, IA with a chocolate Lab, Michael. We had to stop for the night at a motel. This was over twenty-years ago, when it was a little harder to find pet-friendly lodging. After I got a room on the second floor, I snuck him up the back steps. Then I snuck him out early in the morning. The whole time I thought, “I hope no one asks if I’ve got an animal in the room with me.” No one did! But it reminded me that though we are supposed to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ, we secretly hope no one asks!
- I remember buying my first car. It was a 1972 Ford Mustang 2. It was a actually a pretty crappy car, but it got me to and from my first real job at Bell Labs for a few years. White, stick shift, tan interior. It cost $2,000. I think my Dad fronted the money and I paid him $100 a month to pay him back.
I’m sure I’ve got a lot of other “firsts” that will come to mind. Maybe there will be a few sequels to this post. I do know that there are so many firsts I don’t recall at all: first day at school, first sermon ever preached, first consecration of holy communion elements, first baptism, first funeral, first wedding, etc. But I’ll have to give it some thought, search my mind, and see what I can come up with.
What “firsts” do you remember?