Even territorial geese.
A quick search of the internet will net an unlimited supply of entertaining videos featuring these remarkable critters, and even an abundance of exotic creatures from the African plains with which to entertain yourself. Often, they will give us a laugh, cause us to gasp, or provide us with one of those moments when we all say, aww.
But sometimes, if we are paying attention, they can also teach us something.
Recently, a video of a newborn giraffe learning to walk caught my eye. As the mother bent to encourage her, the poor creature would slowly rise on trembling back legs, then would attempt to steady her forelegs. But time and time again, the little thing would collapse in a pile of seemingly forlorn frustration.
As I watched, I found myself trying to will her to her feet as her mother waited patiently. Finally, the babe established a firm foundation on all four wobbly legs. She got her balance, stood proudly, and then flopped back to the earth.
I’ve sometimes described my irregular attempts at yoga as looking a bit like that baby giraffe (I’m about 6’7”, so feel free to laugh). It seems as if my arms and legs are determined to go in unintended directions as I struggle to find a firm foundation—to gain my balance, if you will.
My struggle on the mat, and that of the baby giraffe learning to stand and then walk, seems like pretty good metaphors for the seasons of our lives and how we press through the often awkward, sometimes scary challenges.
The well-lived life requires a lot of balance.
It requires risk.
And it requires some determination, like a newborn giraffe learning to stand.
I don’t remember learning to walk. I’m grateful there are no home movies of me learning either. I’m sure if they existed though, it would show people around me providing their encouragement as I braced myself against sturdy objects, learning as I go. And then, I’m sure, such movies would show me falling repeatedly. But every time a took the risk of calamity, I’m pretty sure I must have learned something. So again and again, like every healthy child, I took the chance and now, look at me go! I can walk unaided, even with my new hip, the one that makes the TSA screeners suspicious every time I pass through the airport.
As I’ve meditated on this season of my life (I’m in my late 50s), I realized I still needed to take some risks. I need to learn a new kind of walking. So I quit a perfectly good and well-paying job that no longer seemed meaningful. I’ve started a new venture with no guarantee of success, but with the hope that there’s truth in the notion “we should leap and the net will appear.”
In truth, sometimes it’s a little scary.
If I’m not mindful, I can “what if” myself into a state of anxiety. Fortunately, I have friends and family who remind me of what I’m able to do and why I’ve chosen this path. I lean on them as I risk calamity once more. Mostly, I’m determined.
So maybe there are things in your life in which you’re trying to gain your balance.
Maybe there are some risks you need to take, like asking forgiveness, learning to trust again, or even finding a more fulfilling career.
But remember, it’s okay to fall.
Sometimes, you’ll need to borrow courage and persistence from friends and family that will feed your determination.
As you walk through your journey, perhaps thoughts of the newborn giraffe trying to stand and walk will also encourage you.
Or maybe it will just make you say, awwww.