His Imprints On Our Lives
Jul 31, 2016 03:10AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I was flipping through some photos of a recent vacation we took to North Carolina and saw one I took at sunrise with footprints in the sand. The “Footprints in the Sand” poem by Mary Stevenson has been around a long time, and I won’t deny it was the first thought to flash through my mind.
But something else impressed itself upon me.
The footprints not only remind us of God walking with us—sometimes carrying us—but they serve as evidence of those who walk ahead of us and with us.
A few folks had arrived at the beach that morning before we did. So did some larger dogs; I could see their strong, deep imprints on the sand along with the telltale marks of long canine toenails. Meanwhile, my 12-pound and 17-pound Shih Tzus barely made a dent—but they made one. Their tiny, shallow paw marks undeniably declared:
“Samson and Delilah were here!”
As I surveyed the shoreline, I also recognized the size 11, size 10, size 5, and size 4 flip flop prints of my family members.
I can’t tell you how comforting it was to see not only that I wasn’t alone—but also that we made a difference by being there.
Psalm 77:19-20, ESV, a Psalm of Asaph
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Recalling God’s deliverance to Israel from enslavement by the Pharaoh in the time of the great exodus from Egypt, Asaph notes the unseen footprints of God.
Can you imagine if we could actually see them? If they were visible to our naked eye? What comfort that would bring us!
I have to imagine, as I looked down the coastline that day, that despite His creation walking, darting, flitting, skimming, and running (have you heard of the majestic Mustangs of Corolla, NC?) down the shoreline, there are stronger imprints pushing down on the fine and coarse sand there—and not just that but on our lawns, in our homes, on the upholstery of our car seats, and at our dining room table.
What if we started thinking about His presence everywhere?
- In every room of our house
- Out in traffic when we’re impatient, cut off, late, and feeling some road rage (if you don’t occasionally feel some of that, you are more sanctified than I am and likely have little to learn from my faith columns—smile)
- Sitting across from the specialists in a team meeting for your child’s education
- In the waiting room for that fertility test news or biopsy result
- By the phone wondering if that broken relationship ever thinks of us anymore? Will they make good on their expressed interest or default to leaving us behind as always?
- In the parking lot dropping our children off to college for the first time
- At our new job after over a decade of being out of the workforce
- In the car about to pick up a child who needs some strong parenting and we’re still forming the words in our disappointment
A few years ago, when I was writing my first book and simultaneously mentoring a few people without a Christian background on how to pray, I realized how present God is all the time and in every place when we’ve invited Him into our lives and hearts—even when we’re unaware.
Exodus 33:14, ESV, God speaking to Moses
And he said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
Revelation 21:3, ESV, Apostle John speaking
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
My journey to realizing this actually began as an exchange student in Japan in college when my host family asked me about my God. You see, when they wanted to consult a spiritual being, they approached the family shrine or went to public temples and shrines to clap and throw money and a prayer. So, it completely fascinated (maybe even horrified) them when I shared that I talked to God in the bath. Because I was low man on the total pole in family rank, I took my bath (same hot water shared by all) at the very end of the night after everyone else went first. In their minds, how I could I engage with my God from the family bath?
And that’s the point, isn’t it? He never leaves us. And when we cry out, He hears us, no matter how low the tone, how desperately weary the sound we squeak out.
But I’m human and therefore sometimes in need of the comfort of the tangible. So, I picture Him sitting across from me in the living room, an indent in the chair. I chat with Him as if He is sitting on my bed listening while I brush my teeth.
He also offers us visible imprints of how others have joined us for a sunrise, have eaten ice cream before we sat down at that particular picnic table at the dairy stop, have stood in line to take their driver’s test ahead of us.
And taking that a bit further, if we look, we can see who showed up when life got messy, difficult, and downright ugly. They may not have presented in the way we expected, but they cared. They were there—via phone call, card, text message, email, or in person.
So, I encourage you that if you have a hard time visualizing God’s presence, start by looking for the imprints He left through other people:
- The only friends to walk you through your broken relationship or divorce without judgment
- The people who love your child in their current challenging behavior and/or special need
- The messengers of love who drove you where you needed to go or dropped by with meals or groceries when you were sick
- The loved ones who continued to interact with you even within the context of your great anger and emotion until you became unstuck
Who stayed on the island with you?
Those are your footprints, my friend, and they are just as much from God as His invisible presence walking alongside you. He knows you need to see indents and imprints to feel less alone.
Spend some time looking up and down your shoreline. Really search it. Reflect on it, and open your eyes.
There are more than puppy paws and child croc prints on your personal life beach, I assure you.
Let me know what you discover. I’d love to hear from you!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.