There is beloved poem call Footprints. I have never been a fan of that poem. Maybe because I see it everywhere or because it harkens me to a sentimentality that might be helpful for others but is lacking for me. The more that I think about it thought I think my inability to connect with this poem is because of the location of the one walking on the beach in relation to Jesus. Not the part where the walker is being carried by Jesus, but the part where the walker is walking next to Jesus.
I feel called to follow Jesus. He is my leader and model. He is the forerunner of the faith. He is the one who steps first and I am behind him. He leads and I follow.
The poem gives me the impression that the walker is choosing to or has the courage to walk beside Jesus. I have a hard time following someone when I am walking alongside them. Sometimes I turn one way and they turn the other. I never really die to my agenda when I walk along side Jesus, which is why I believe he calls us to follow.
Today, I attempted to do what many have done but I never had. I attempted to literally walk in the footsteps of another person.
There were a set of footprints left in the sand and I began to follow them. Their gait became my gait. Their pacing became my pacing. Their turns and direction became my turn and direction. I had no idea where the steps would take me. All I did was follow.
In the beginning it was somewhat easy to walk step for step. There were no other prints along that stretch of beach and the shoe pattern was distinct and clear. Even though they were easy to see it was a little tricky to walk exactly in their steps. I got off balance sometimes and there were a couple of times I thought they were beginning to turn ever so much in one direction but they did not and I was off on the next footprint by a few inches. With my eyes fixed to the path and very alert to any changes in every step I found my leader began to step into beach that was more traveled.
This was a little more difficult to follow, but not too bad. At this point I had the pacing and spacing of my leaders footprints down. But instead of looking just for the very next step, I had to look up a bit in order to see where the leader was walking. If I focused on just the next step I could not recognize their footprint quickly enough and then I would break stride and become off balance. Additionally, due to the traffic of different prints, there were times I could not see the very next step but only the next step or two after that. In order to make it to the step I could see, I had to walk in faith and trust that I was stepping on the footprints of my leader. I had to walk by faith and not by sight.
The most difficult part of my mimic walking was when the prints turned and now the sun was to my back. This caused my own shadow to be cast right in front of me and washing out the footprints. I could no longer see the little shadows cast in the ridges of the footprint of my leader. The only way I could walk in the footprints of my leader was very slowly and only after I had moved to one side in order to allow the sunshine to reveal the footprints. My own dark side became an obstacle to following in the footprints of my leader.
In the call of Christ we are called to follow. A disciples does not walk in their own path and in their own way, but conforms their walk to that of the master, Jesus. It is cool to forge your own way, and in many ways it is easier than to try to exactly mimic another, but it seems clear the call of Jesus is to follow. Not to lead.