One of my daughter’s favorite kid books is the Little Engine that Could. She loves trains like Thomas and all his friends from the show. But none compare to the Little Blue Engine from her book. She even calls this little blue toy engine Millie (from Thomas and Friends) the Little engine that could. Her eyes light up whenever we read it together or whenever she talks about it. Funny thing is, it was one of my favorite kids books growing up too. But now, it holds an even fonder place in my heart.
A couple weeks ago my daughter was doing something pretty new and difficult for her. She is wanting to be a ballerina and she has been accepted into a local ballet class. She’s had to practice a couple poses and moves that she had never done before her first class. Keep in mind, my daughter is only four years old so this is all brand new. One of the evenings, while I was helping her practice, she made a breakthrough. She had learned something new that she had been struggling to get for several days. She was ecstatic! She said, “dad I’m just like the Little Engine that could. I kept trying and trying and I got it!” I almost starting crying. But I kept it together and said, “that’s right my sweet girl. You just keep trying and you’ll achieve great things in life. I’m so proud of you.”
I read a story today about a girl, Katie Gallagher. She had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning Autism) when she was seven years old. That means she had a lot of struggles ahead of her in life. Her motor skills were not the best, relationships were difficult, and criticism was a near constant. As a child, her parents read her…you guessed it…The Little Engine that Could.
“I used to read Katie ‘The Little Engine that Could,’ and I would tell her she was that little engine,” said Gina Gallagher (Katie’s mom). “I told her, ‘You’re going to get to the same place everybody else is. It’s just a harder journey for you.'”
While all of the doctors and ‘experts’ were saying she would never leave home, never finish high school, never drive a car, never go away to college, never get married, Katie’s parents were giving her hope. The now 22 year old Katie has been the Little Engine that Could. Despite her struggles, she drives a car, she is graduating from college, and she has held a part-time job at Macy’s for the past two years.
In the story ‘The Little Engine that Could’, there is an old rusty black engine who is known for saying, “I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t.” I have known so many people who live their lives by the same motto. They’ve been told they couldn’t and they chose to believe it. Some have been told that their disadvantage will dictate their life, and they’ve believed it. Some have been crippled with fear because of something tragic that has taken place in their life. Others have been dependent on someone most of their life and now they don’t believe they can do it on their own. That is not living. That is not what God intended any of us to experience.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
God didn’t make any of us to live in fear and doubt. He didn’t make us to live in regret. We are made, fearfully and wonderfully made. My four year old daughter has this verse memorized. She believes that she is the Little ANNA that could. I hope she always knows that and knows the God who made her with purpose. Katie Gallagher was no mistake. My daughter is no mistake. You are no mistake. God made each of us out of His great love. We are all made to be that little ____ that could. Just plug your name in the phrase. Whatever you’re facing, you can overcome it in Christ. God’s image is on you. If you’re a believer, His Spirit is in you. Live empowered. Refuse to believe the lies you’ve been told. Cast off your fears and run the race. Life is too short to cut yourself short. Remember who you are, and the God who made you.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The Man in the Arena Speech by Teddy Roosevelt, Paris, France on 23 April, 1910