It was in the Spring and we had taken a quick trip to the beach, just an overnighter. At some point Hannah wanted to go walk to the end of the jetty and asked me to go with her. Or maybe I said I wanted to go. I can’t remember now.
She had what I called her boho beach dress over her shorts and top and it fluttered and billowed as she barefoot climbed the uneven rocks just ahead of me. She’d take a step and then reach back a hand for me. We weren’t that far off the ground at first but because I have a difficult time with heights and I’m a wee bit more shaky and less sure of my footing than her, I was grateful for her steadying, reassuring hand.
It had been years since I’d been out on a jetty and this time, older, wiser, less athletic and in shape, I saw dangers and felt fear with every step.
“It’s okay, Mom, I’ve got you,” she say to encourage me and then, “just don’t look down.”
But looking down was all I could do as I gripped her hand and pulled my way, picking steps through the boulders until we were at the top. Once there she let go of my hand and I started shaking, not sure I could go further.
“Come on, you didn’t come this far to stay here. I’m going to end; you can come with me.”
And once more she gave me her hand. That’s the same little hand I would hold and stare at in wonder when she was born.
From the beach it looked like the jetty had a path on top, almost like a sidewalk. From my new view at the top I realized I couldn’t be more wrong. Rather than a smooth, unbroken walkway leading to the ocean at the end, it was boulder after boulder sandwiched together with smaller rocks in between, a little pavement here and there but most of it had washed away, and spaces, lots of spaces where you could look down and see the ocean.
I gripped her hand harder.
It amazed me that people were casually talking and walking as they traversed the jetty. It took all of my own concentration to pick the next safe, secure place to put my foot, judge the distance to see if I thought I could make it. Hannah stepped easily ahead of me but her path wasn’t always the one that I felt comfortable with; I had to choose my own but make it to where I could still maintain a grip on her hand.
Painstakingly and with people seeming to fly all around us, unconcerned with the danger of the rocks, the spaces anyone could just fall through and get stuck, the wind that whipped at us, the salty spray that sometimes flushed upward making the way both wet and slippery, I cautiously made my way with Hannah to the first half of the jetty. I hadn’t stopped shaking.
The way continued to get more uneven, with larger gaps, and footholds more difficult for me to find. At one point we had to make a jump and Hannah had to let go of me to jump. As I tried to get enough nerve to do it, a couple of people sailed cleanly by, again, conversing easily as if they were walking on solid ground. Praying, I made the jump and Hannah helped steady me but as I looked ahead and realized the path became increasingly rougher I told her I wanted to go back.
Hannah wanted to go the end and she asked me if I’d just stay there and wait for her to help me back. I didn’t want my own fears to stop her so I told her to help me find an area where no one would run me over, but not on the edge. The wind, the waves crashing and pounding and flying up over and between the jetty terrified me. We found a flat area about the size of a large shoebox and she parked me there. I was too afraid to even move and kept my eyes down, focused on my fears.
Someone from Hannah’s direction hollered and I looked up and out to the ocean end of the jetty and that’s when I saw it.
Hannah was dancing, leaping gracefully from one boulder to the next, her arms outstretched, long hair and skirt flowing as she looked ahead and landed solidly before gracefully, fluidly leaping to the next landing spot. The motion was as beautiful as the water I could now see in the distance, gradually building its momentum, moving steadfastly toward the shore, the jetty. I was entranced watching her and when she stopped and turned to wave to me, I lifted a hand back and smiled at my fearless daughter who didn’t see the obstacles, wasn’t paralyzed by the possible dangers, and didn’t succumb to fears.
And I realized then that what she saw was paths. Paths she had confidently chosen and decisively taken, fully committing herself to her course with every leap. Paths that would lead her to her goal. Hannah has always seen paths. Whether they be the split second thoughts she used in traveling to the end of the jetty or thoughtful, time-involved steps in planning how best to prepare for college, this amazing young lady is fearless, dauntless, determined, and optimistic. Wow.
As she made her way back to me I took the picture of her, wondering if I could capture the beautiful strength of my daughter’s character and spirit. As she me helped back to the beach, one shaky step at a time, hand held tight, I felt this moment was not only special but held some deeper significance for her, for me. I think I finally understand.
Though we can’t be certain the paths we’re on will always be smooth, we can trust the One who walks with us. Instead of looking down, focusing on the obstacles, the dangers, and letting our fears keep us from moving forward, we can choose to look ahead and look up. He will give us, one little leap at a time, a safe place to land and direction for the next step. And though we can’t see or know certainties, we can choose to trust that He does, and will give us hope and confidence to go on. Trust, seek, listen, and put your eyes on the Lord. He’s got your future.
That’s God’s promise.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; acknowledge the Lord in all your ways and He will set your path straight. Proverbs 3:5-6