Staircase Seasons (or What My Incontinent Dalmatian Taught Me About God, Goals, and Getting Ahead)

Years ago when I still lived in California I had a Dalmatian named Sparky. He was an older rescue dog with a stubborn streak. Sometimes during our walks when we crossed the busy boulevard near our home he would just plop right down in the middle of the street. There he sat, completely oblivious to the oncoming cars, horns honking, and drivers screaming things that definitely were not, “Oh, what a nice doggie.”

In later years he suffered from hip dysplasia and had lost control of his bladder. This meant that when nature called he didn’t always make it to the back door and the dog run just outside. Sometimes he didn’t even try. One evening, while we were hosting a dinner party, he wandered into the formal dining room during the main course, crawled under the table, and, to our great embarrassment, relieved himself all over the floor.

Man, I loved that dog.

Sparky was the most loyal dog I ever owned. He would wander through the house looking for me until he found me, usually upstairs in my office. Despite the fact that my home office was on the second floor, and stairs were difficult for him to manage, he would climb the stairs, push my door open with his nose, wag his tail once he saw me and lay down at my feet where he would stay for hours while I worked. It was as if he was saying I don’t need anything from you, I just want to be near you.

On these days, when nature called, he would get up, walk to the top of the staircase, and whimper until I came to help him down the stairs. I would stand in front of him, gently hold his ankles, and slowly guide him down the stairs one step at a time. He was usually unsure, often scared, continually looking to me for reassurance. “It’s ok Sparky,” I would say. “We’ll do it together. I’m right here. I won’t let you fall. Just follow me. Step. Step. Step. There you go. You’ve got this.”

Over and over, day after day, we did this dance. Step. Step. Step.

It was one of the best parts of my day.

The Wisdom of Small Obediences

In the years since then I have come to understand the wisdom of step, step, step.

I believe that we have anonymous seasons when God gives us a clear vision but a time of “not yet.” I believe there are seasons when we are called to live out vision publicly. But in my own life I have also come to understand that there are times when God gives us no clear vision at all. When He simply takes our hand and leads us to the next step, and the next, and the next. No grand plan. No five-point vision. No mission statements or planning worksheets or goal setting sessions.

It’s simply this: step, step, step.

Because although God never loses sight of the vision He has for us sometimes we have to let go of the one we have for ourselves in order for God to do a transforming work in us. Sometimes the smallness of a single act of obedience will move mountains that all of the bigness of our self-made plans, goals, and vision never will.

For me, these small obediences can be different things: a specific bible chapter to meditate on, a forgiveness to extend, a coffee to schedule, a habit to put down, a hand to lend, or starting to blog again. It’s simply doing the next thing so God can do the best thing.

I’m usually unsure. I’m often scared. I continually look to Him for reassurance. And then I hear His voice.

It’s ok. We’ll do it together. I’m right here. I won’t let you fall. Just follow me. Step. Step. Step. There you go. You’ve got this.


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