“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little” – Thomas Merton
My son recently celebrated his first birthday. He did so while seated in a high chair, stuffing his (entire) face with yellow icing and wondering why everyone was looking at him like that. His name is Brooks, like the old guy in “Shawshank Redemption” who couldn’t make it on the outside. With a name like Brooks Breaux (pronounced Bro), I figure that he’s destined to become a professional baseball player, or perhaps a golfer, or in an odd turn of events, a governor. Either way I’ll be a proud father, except for that whole governor thing (I’m kidding, Laura).
A couple of months ago he started crawling. He’s pretty much everywhere now. In his eyes, each room in our house is an undiscovered frontier in desperate need of discovering. But before the crawling, life was more difficult. For all of us. You see, Brooks wasn’t the most motivated child I’d ever met. His idea of a nice afternoon involved lying on his back with a bottle full of breast milk, laughing hysterically at the curious movements of the ceiling fan. Attempting to crawl really hadn’t entered into his mind at this point, mostly because crawling involved movement. It involved a certain amount of effort, moving his arms and legs and engaging abdominal muscles that feel so much better when not engaged. He wasn’t into it.
I remember watching one afternoon as he was playing. He’d apparently had enough of the ceiling fan and had transitioned into a seated position on the floor. All around him were toys. There were plastic cars and balls, stuffed animals and various things that required batteries, anything he wanted really. And he’d play with all of them, for a while. But then suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he’d see something better. He’d notice something that he hadn’t noticed before, something shiny and capable of singing songs to him in a British accent. Filled with some sort excitement, he’d reach with all his might. But what he really wanted was always just beyond his reach. Getting a hold of it would require some movement. He’d have to move his arms and legs and engage abdominal muscles that feel so much better when not engaged. This was too big of a risk at the time, so he’d glance back at the toys around him and slowly convince himself that they were awesome too, because they were so close.
Being a dad, I wanted my son to get what he wanted. I wanted to help him, to show him that with a little bit of effort, he could hold that majestic plastic fish with the British accent in his own two hands. But I let him do his own thing, “he’ll grow out of it” I thought.
But the truth is, I’m not sure I would have been qualified to teach my son such a lesson. For one thing, I’m not fluent in whatever language a 10-month-old speaks, and also because if I’m being honest, I’ve never grown out of it. In fact, maybe he should be the one teaching me the lesson, since he’s now scooting around the house discovering new oceans, and I’m still on my butt, settling for the things that happen to be right in front of me.
I’m not sure if this is true in anyone else’s life, but I’ve been settling. Instead of pursuing the things that I really care about, or using the gifts that I feel I’ve been given, most of my life I’ve looked around at the opportunities closest to me and slowly convinced myself that they were pretty awesome too, because they were so close. And all it would take is a little movement, just a little effort to explore the paths I really want to go down. But crawling is hard. Life is so much easier under the ceiling fan.
So my question is this: what keeps us under the ceiling fan? What compels us to settle for too little? Because I think it’s time to start moving, to engage muscles we never knew we had, to start reaching for the things we were made to reach for. I hope you’ll join me.