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This morning I returned to our local YMCA after being off for a couple weeks from a minor surgery. I’d got out of the habit of going in that short time and could easily have talked myself out of it today. But, something told me I needed to go and put in my three miles on the indoor track. Nevertheless, the thought crossed my mind about how nice it would be if I could snap my fingers and the extra weight I’m carrying would simply disappear.

The track at our Y is one-ninth of a mile per lap. I was in my fourth or fifth lap when a man, probably in his seventies, came in, hung his walking cane on the hook by the door and slowly, very slowly started ambling around the track. When I came back around and lapped him, he’d travelled all of twenty-five feet. When I lapped him again, he’d gone about that far again.

I noticed as I approached him from behind how intentionally and carefully he made each footfall. More than once I saw him almost stumble. I wondered if perhaps he’d recently had a stroke and was teaching himself to walk again. He was taking it slow and easy, one step at a time, completely focused on not falling.

After lapping him a dozen or more times, I approached him again as he was reaching for his cane after finishing his one lap. I wondered if he had set one lap as a goal for himself. Regardless, I was impressed with his determination to finish and, as I reached him, I lightly clapped my hands and congratulated him with a, “Well done, sir, well done!” In return he gave me a smile from ear to ear.

In my final mile and a half, I thought back to my own situation. I couldn’t snap my fingers and make the weight disappear. No, I was going to have to do just like this old gentleman, make progress one step and one day at a time. If I keep at it, I’ll reach my goal.

It occurred to me, too, that the goal of holiness can only be reached in the same way. We don’t become holy overnight. We get there one day at a time, each day focused on not falling into sin but carefully taking one right and just step after another. I hope to reach my goal of making it to heaven. And, when I do, I know I’ll be smiling from ear to ear when I hear Christ clapping and congratulating me, “Well done, my son, well done!”

“Heavenly Father, thank You for urging me to resume my good habits this morning, and thank You for the blessed experience of seeing that elderly, determined gentleman make progress toward his goal. Through him, You inspired me to persevere towards my goal and grow in my relationship with You one day at a time. Amen.”

(One Day At a Time was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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