The Penguin Shuffle

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.” -I Corinthians 13:11

When I lived in Minnesota, I knew a kid, whom I’ll call Stevie. Stevie, like all little ones, was ready one day to begin to learn to walk. It was late Fall, and in Minnesota, that meant the sidewalks were already getting icy. Stevie, though, was determined to learn to walk, and with two older siblings and parents as role models, Stevie was soon shuffling across the icy sidewalks like everyone else.

Now, anyone who has ever walked on icy sidewalks knows that it’s much safer to waddle like a penguin when it’s slick. Leaning forward a little and taking shorter steps greatly reduces the risk of slipping and falling on ice. Since Stevie learned to walk in those icy months of November, December, January, February, and March, nobody thought twice about Stevie’s penguin-like shuffle.

But then April came. The ice and snow melted to make way for the blossoms of spring– and still, Stevie shuffled. It was the only way Stevie had ever walked. It was the only way anyone had ever taught Stevie to walk. Now that the snow was gone, Stevie needed to learn to walk upright instead of shuffling. Penguins are great for winter, but it wasn’t winter. What had worked before wasn’t working any more. Or, to put it another way, Stevie needed to adapt.

Being told to adapt might sound a bit threatening, until you realize that you do it all the time. There’s construction on your usual route to work? Adapt by taking a detour. You caught a cold? Adapt by taking some nyquil and a nap. You know how to adapt. You do it all the time.

Churches are often much better at adapting that we give ourselves credit for, too. During World War I, there was a lot of suspicion against German-speaking congregations in the US. They adapted by worshiping in English. Congregations in Tipton were struggling to get leaders for VBS. They adapted by joining together for a five-congregation shared VBS experience.

Now, some challenges are harder to adapt to. How do I adapt to a sick parent? How do I adapt to job loss? How do I adapt my connection with God if what I’ve been doing isn’t working?

Well, do you remember being a teenager? Or, if you don’t want to go there, do you ever spend time around people in that transition age between childhood and adulthood? Ever notice that they try new things ALL THE TIME until they find what’s right? Most adults call it “just a phase” but the truth is that teenagers have figured out one of the best ways to grow: by trying different ways of being until they find the one that’s most authentic for them.

If you feel like something in your faith isn’t working and you need to adapt rather than shuffle along like a penguin, just give it a try! Try praying every night before bed, or try talking with another Christian you trust, or try memorizing a Bible verse to repeat in stressful moments. You can do it! This is what growth in faith means; we have to try new things sometimes when the old stuff isn’t working anymore.

Penguins are great for walking on ice. (They are also adorable, but that’s a little off-topic.) When things are slippery, a cautious shuffle is best. When the going is smooth, we can walk boldly, both in life and in faith, knowing that Jesus walks with us and helps us grow.

Dear God, I know that I need to adapt in my life, but I am nervous about it. Give me courage to walk boldly and faithfully with you. Change me where I need to adapt. Amen.


By Pastor Beth Wartick

Trinity Lutheran Church

Tipton, IA

One thought on “The Penguin Shuffle

  1. These devotions are awesome–simple, personal, yet thought-provoking. (I am amazed at how much you are creating and accomplishing during this hectic season!)


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