DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Most Important Step

Written by: on October 5, 2020

“There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown.  He wants to see what is reaching toward him and to be able to recognize or at least classify it.  Man always tends to avoid physical contact with anything strange.” – Elias Canetti[1]

We stand at the precipice of the unknown.  A myriad of emotions whirl inside as we stare at the blank canvas that is the next stage.  Anxiety and fear permeate our base instinct, but it wrestles with the constant push and pull of wanting to find joy, excitement, and wonder in that moment.  We ask ourselves, “What is the most important step a person can take?”  We validate ourselves that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.  We place our emphasis, our hopes, our dreams, on that first step and yes – it is important.

But it is not the most important step.

A step into the unknown – the realm of unknowing, of mystery, of adventure – is a heavy step.  “Everything hinges on this step, this first moment.  With this step we are no longer bound by what we know.  We’re finally free.”  With a deep breath, we take that first step and the weight disappears.

But immediately, a voice whispers ever so softly, “Come back.”  We’ve taken the first step, but doubt clouds our mind, our hearts, our actions.  We cast a look over our shoulder and see everything we have ever known.  It’s brilliant.  Lights beam from the tall towers we’ve have a hand in building.  Everything we’ve known and loved is locked away in those ivory towers that stand as a testimony to who we are.  Comfort, security, love, friendship, finances, family – everything our heart desires.  “Why do you want to leave?”

Why do we want to leave?

Our eyes snap forward.  The path ahead is shrouded in fog with shadowy shapes prowling through the swirls of mist.  Our mind begins to play tricks as the shadows grow to gargantuan proportions, red glowing lights flicker on and off, and we hear the soft cackle of derision from those who have always doubted our step.

Why would we ever want to leave?

Longing springs up in our heart, filling the space that terror of the unknown has bred in us.  Doubt clouds our mind once again.  We lift our foot, but it isn’t in a forward direction.  It hovers in the air, trying to discern the proper path.  “There’s no shame in going back.  They’ll understand.  They have to understand.”  Our leg trembles as it slowly inches back.

But again it stops as a soft light glows further ahead in the distance.  The mist is not dispelled, but it catches the eye in a most curious way.  It isn’t bright, but it is an invitation.  We don’t know what the invitation holds, but it is whispering in a voice even quieter than the first, “Come.”

“Come.  Take the step.  Step into the adventure that awaits. The path is not easy, but at the end it will have been worth it.  Trust Me.”

“Come, Expert.  Together we take this step.”

With fear and trembling, we take a step.

What is the most important step?  It’s not the first.

It’s the next step.[2]



[1] Quoted in Steve D’Souza and Diana Renner’s Not Knowing (London: LID Publishing Ltd, 2014), 108.

[2] Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer (London: Gollancz, 2017), 1131.

About the Author


Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

9 responses to “The Most Important Step”

  1. mm Greg Reich says:

    Well done! I find it interesting that we often fear the uncertainty of the unknown hesitant to leave the comfort of the predictable. BUT when it comes to heaven or the return of Christ many Christians long for the unknown. The world has written a multitude of books speculating what heaven is like and when Christ will return. During and after every crisis I have lived through these past 60 years I have seen an increase on teaching and speculating on the end times. Why is it that we fear today and its unpredictability but look forward to something that is based on faith and speculation that is just as unpredictable? Why do we long to leave this life behind when in many ways eternity is just as unclear?

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Greg, maybe part of it is the spirit of adventure or that when something is so completely unknowable to us, we can’t help but be drawn to it. We’re drawn to the deepest mysteries of the universe, always trying to understand something that is beyond our reach.

      Maybe it’s also a flash of hope that keeps us looking forward. We aren’t content with the moment because we see the direct consequences of our daily struggles. But we look forward to the day when the things we face today are no more. I think of the phrase “holy discontentment” as I reflect on our current state of affairs.

  2. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Images of Abraham and Moses and countless others fill my mind as I read your words. Walking by faith, following the quiet whisper of Jesus, “Come, follow me. Trust me,” is scary. “Go to the land I will show you.” Lead my people out of Egypt to the Promised Land.” Honestly, why do we even imagine that our journey would be any different? Even Jesus was led into the wilderness. For 40 days, he roamed, trusting Spirit to lead. Walking by faith is a moment by moment endeavor. What makes us think we can set 5 or 10 year “goals”? What would happen if we released the worldly expectations that accompany striving, planning, manipulating, and strategizing, and simply lived by faith, taking “The path ahead, shrouded in fog with shadowy shapes prowling through the swirls of mist”? BTW- each week, this story gets better and better. Thank you:)

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      Thanks, Darcy =)

      I think we want to set our goals and strive, plan, manipulate, and strategize because it gives us something tangible to hold on to. Living by faith may be what we’re called to, but unless we’re actively looking it may not provide the sense of satisfaction we’re looking for. It’s difficult to release the worldly expectations when those expectations are thrown at us every moment of every day.

      One of my favorite quotes is from Hudson Taylor. I’ve had this as the lock screen on my phone since 2012:

      “Finding men’s purpose with God can be a strange and mysterious journey. Or it can be as plain as asking God for a task and then watching your desire for that task grow within you.

      Problem is, most of us forget to ask god to fill us with a fervent spirit to serve him. Then, years later, we wake up and realize we had our life. We made our small choices…our safe choices.

      But somehow we missed the richness of following our God down an uncharted path.”

      May we have the humility and grace to walk that uncharted path.

      • mm Darcy Hansen says:

        You may appreciate one of my favorite quotes by Brother Lawrence: In regard to our contentment with too little, he says, “Why should we be satisfied with a brief moment of worship? With such meager devotion, we restrain the flow of God’s abundant grace. If God can find a soul filled with lively faith, He pours His grace into it in a torrent that, having found an open channel, gushes out exuberantly.” (The Practice of the Presence of God, 29). Traveling unchartered paths require unrestrained devotion to God. Amen, to having humility and grace combined with unrestrained devotion to our God who leads.

  3. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Brother, you are finding your voice! Way to stretch yourself and experiment with something in between an article and a first-person adventure. It’s captivating.

  4. mm John McLarty says:

    What’s your next step?

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    The first step and the next step.

    I hear that song from ‘Into the Unknown’, from the movie Frozen, playing in the back of my head…

    Every day, just getting out of bed takes some courage.

    ‘A step into the unknown – the realm of unknowing, of mystery, of adventure – is a heavy step.’

    How can we enter into this, without so much anxiety? The realm of the unknowing, with some playfulness?

    After all, out there, where ‘The Wild Things Are’ are things that can prey on fear and encourage doubt.

    Then, MC Hammer’s song comes to mind…’U Can’t Touch This’. No chance anything would prey on someone dancing in those pants 🙂 playful and courageous, I like that combo!

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