Escalators are interesting devices. They allow us to climb stairs without lifting a foot and, as one comedian noted, they don’t break: they just become stairs. Escalators also provide a good illustration for our spiritual development. As we go through life, we seek to draw ever closer to God. However, we are unable to accomplish this by our own power. All of our spiritual growth comes by God’s grace alone. Even though we are given a part to play in this process by preparing ourselves to receive this growth, God is the ultimate mover and driver in this process. As the parable of the growing seed illustrates, God gives the growth.
When on an escalator, we are asked nothing other than that we stand on the escalator. Granted, this doesn’t mean that we are passive in the process. We have to step onto it and stay on our feet after all. However, many times we are in such a hurry to get to where we are going that we walk up or down the escalator we are riding. Doing so is not only dangerous, but it also takes our attention away from what is in front of us. One of the neat things about escalators is that they allow us to make progress while being in the present moment, taking in our surroundings. In a lot of ways our cooperation with God’s growing us is dependent on what we do in the present moment: Will we remember God? How will we respond to this error? What will we say to this person? Many times, we are so focused on quickly arriving at what we perceive to be our next “spiritual checkpoint” that we completely miss the blessings and invitations to serve God right in front of us. The Jesuit priest Jean Pierre de Caussade referred to this as the “sacrament of the present moment”. Essentially, we offer each moment to God. We look within and without in order to see what God would have us do or how we can serve God right now.
The habits and attitudes we build by following God moment to moment serve to move us closer to God, often without us realizing it at the time. Just like an escalator draws us up to our destination even while allowing us to really look around and see what’s going on around us, the action of God’s grace draws us closer to Him if we take the time to be present to Him and His leading in our lives moment to moment.