The poem "Footprints in the Sand" stuck in my heart this week. For those of you not familiar with it, it tells the story of a person who is viewing the timeline of his/her life. When things are well, there are two sets of footprints, and when things are hardest and darkest, there is only one set of prints. The person asked the Lord why they were abandoned in those times of need, and the Lord informs his "precious child" that the reason there is only one set of footprints is because in those times, the Lord was carrying them. It is a beautiful image of how God can keep us moving as long as we are still here.
Mine was a slightly different take. As any parent who has been to the beach with their child can tell you, the trek made walking down the beach is anything but direct. Whether a toddler is running toward the dunes (and the sand spurs), an elementary-age child is running toward the waves (and the jellyfish), or a middle-schooler is twelve steps behind, too cool to be seen with parents, the paths of the footprints will not resemble those in the poem. For many of us this can be seen as being oblivious to the perils that are to the left and right, a desire to do things our own way, or even trying to distance ourselves from God since He didn't do what we wanted Him to do, or felt He should have done.
The footprints of God would be different as well. As a loving Father, his would be all over the place, staying within reach of his children, reminding them of his presence, and where the best place for them truly is. The final illustration that accompanied the poem would be different for each of us, but share many of the same traits: zig-zagging prints as God follows us on our arbitrary wanderings, one set of footprints often, as when he lifts us out of the sand spurs, picks us up off of the sand that is burning our feet, and when he plucks us away from the jellyfish and muck into which we have ventured. I see where the trail loops back as He wants to encourage and love us as we lag behind, trying to avoid being involved with Him. I picture the deep spots in some of the footprints where we have dug in our heels to fight with Him, and even some further apart where we have taken long strides to run away from Him. But in the end, I like to think of my footprints beside his, in stride, as we walk together toward the finish line. I hope that is the picture you want for yourself as well.