My daddy loved little reminders. He carried the same old, worn pictures in his wallet for decades. Joe Rudd was the kind of guy who made refrigerator magnets to commemorate holidays. He wanted us to remember the moments after they had passed.
Daddy also liked books, poems, and pithy sayings. The sound of “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right” still lands impatiently upon my ears. One of his favorite poems was by Mary Stevenson. (Who? Trust me. You know this one.)“Footprints in the Sand.”
|One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.|
|Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.|
|In each scene, I noticed footprints in the sand.|
|Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,|
|other times there were one set of footprints.|
|This bothered me because I noticed|
|that during the low periods of my life,|
|when I was suffering from|
|anguish, sorrow or defeat,|
|I could see only one set of footprints.|
|So I said to the Lord,|
|“You promised me Lord,|
|that if I followed you,|
|you would walk with me always.|
|But I have noticed that during|
|the most trying periods of my life|
|there have only been one|
|set of footprints in the sand.|
|Why, when I needed you most,|
|you have not been there for me?”|
|The Lord replied,|
|“The times when you have|
|seen only one set of footprints,|
|is when I carried you.”|
I’ll be the first to admit that I used to find this poem more than just a little bit hokey. So, when Daddy thought it was a good idea that I carry a copy of the poem with me on a little prayer card, I had to slow the eye roll (we may not have termed it as such at the time, but we could throw some shade in the 80s). Sometimes when he was corny, I tried not to hurt his feelings (other times were fair game). Out of my love for him, I carried that little card in my purse (along with some other sentimental cards) for many years.
Being a little further down the beach and having more than my fair share of sets of single prints, I get it now.
The poet clearly had faith that God would be beside her through her darkest times. She was upset when it appeared that God had abandoned her. She likely felt hurt, alone, and perhaps distant from God and her faith. I get it.
Us humans, we are swayed by our sentiment – our feelings. Up. Down. Left. Right. Over. Under. Round and round. Like a Spirograph without the symmetry. If we experience it, then it must be real and true.
Earlier this week, FaceBook reminded me of something that I posted a year ago around this time – “God is so good. ‘God’s work; our hands.’ What an amazing blessing when we find ourselves right where we were meant to be.” Yep, that was me. Just barely a month before tragedy rocked our world.
My feelings changed on March 16th.
Nothing about the night of March 16, 2017 and many of the days and nights that followed felt like blessings. So, if I don’t feel the blessings or if I don’t feel God’s goodness – does that mean that there are no blessings? Does it now mean that God is no longer good?
Life hasn’t felt fair for the past 336 days. Why should my family endure so much heartache? What did I do? What did I fail to do that caused unspeakable pain for those that I love? Why have we been abandoned?
The human heart is a faulty compass. You wouldn’t head out for a long hike in an unknown wood without a map and trustworthy compass. Hikers may wander down a path because it looks interesting or challenging, but they don’t meander through a long hike using only their feelings as a guide. Mariners do not set sail with only their hearts determine their paths. Had I attempted to make the drive from Louisiana to Minnesota making turns and taking highways based upon what I felt was the right direction, Lord only knows where I might have ended up – or how much longer it would have taken for me to reach my intended destination. Much the same, we must find a GPS that will be steady and true keeping us on the right paths.
Truth is truth. It is steady and constant. Truth (despite how things might appear on the evening news) is definite. Our circumstances or more precisely our feelings about our circumstances do not (and should not) control the truth.
Rather, truth should be the norm by which we test our own thoughts. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust God but not your own interpretation of the circumstances.
When the poet felt alone and abandoned, she found evidence that supported her feelings. There was only one set of footprints at those critical times when she expected God to be near. Looking inward for her measure, the poet easily found proof of the worse. When moods are the meter of truth, the universe is “me” centered and the ability to discern reality is skewed.
Then, she received new information. There were only one set of footprints because God carried her during her lowest, darkest times. The circumstances didn’t change. The hard times didn’t become lighter or more carefree. When we turn to truth (God’s promise to be near) to size up a situation, we can’t help but see things differently – truly.
When I force myself to examine my own faulty conclusions against the candor of God’s promises, the truth is clear. God didn’t promise that faith would act as an invisibility cloak shielding us from tragedy. Rather, He promises us that hope is ours.
Placing faith in God is not merely an act of the heart. If I rely solely on my moods toward God in a given moment, my faith would be lost in the woods, tossed about the sea in the night, or meandering through Nevada on the way to Minnesota. We must engage our minds. When feelings and truth do not align, then it becomes critical that I not “lean on my own understanding.”
Experience must be measured against truth – God’s truth – not our “truth.” Like our feelings our own truth is limited by our own perspective. God’s truth is universal and complete because His perspective is universal and complete – even when it doesn’t feel right.