There is a poem titled, “Footprints in the Sand” that you have probably seen at some point in your life. In the poem, a person has a dream in which they look back over their life and see two sets of footprints in the sand, symbolizing walking through life with the Lord. When they look back at some of the hardest times in their life, they are surprised to see only one set of footprints. They thought that once they decided to follow Christ, He would never leave them on their own. Confused, the person questions the Lord about this:
“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 has been only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
The Sand on My Journey of Life
I think if you were to stand with me, and we were to look back over my own life together in a similar manner, there would not simply be a few places with only one set of footprints and others with two sets sitting neatly side-by-side. Nor would there be a nice long continuous line showing no variation or detours.
No, if we were to look at the footprints in the sand of my life, it would be a messy and confused trail. At the beginning, we would see one set of strong and sure footprints, gently walking to a spot on the beach that has been left in total disarray, as if a wrestling match had taken place. Then those same feet would walk from the mess and begin on the journey in the right direction.
After a fair distance, we would see a few awkward and faltering steps beside those faithful and true feet. There would only be a few of the smaller, unsure steps before we saw a streak, a pair of hands, and knees, from where the feet had stumbled and fallen.
Those purposeful feet placed with care would stop, and we would be able to see the outline of a knee in the sand from where they’d bent down to pick up the one who’d fallen. Then there would be only one set of prints again for a time, until a few more awkward and faltering steps were taken, leading to another fall and another stop to pick them up.
If we kept following this track of footprints, we would see this same interaction played out many times. Often, where the smaller feet stumbled, we would see the entire outline of a person who’d given up and lay down completely before being picked back up.
Other times, we would see stumbling and awkward steps falling and then haphazardly running and falling again, going off in a different direction as they tried to escape the steady feet. Eventually, the sure feet would overtake those that had run away and finally collapsed in a heap.
Again, we would see the knee in the sand of the one who never faltered as they lifted the other from the dirty ground.
If we stop and take a moment to look closer at one of these spots where the weak feet had fallen, we might notice a few things that had escaped our attention earlier:
The footprints of those strong and gentle feet would have a small marking in each one, where a nail had pierced it.
If our eyes are keen enough, we might be able see the impression in the sand where two hands had reached down into the dirt underneath the one who’d fallen, to lift them up.
And if we got lucky, we might be able to see the hand clearly enough to make out the line in the sand the nail piercing in it created as it slid across the ground.
If we go and examine another spot closely, we will find that the one with sure feet sat down next to the one that had fallen. And as we look at this spot, we will see that the one who fell was held.
We might be confused to find the shape of where a bottle was set in the sand, until we realize it was used to hold the tears of the one who fell.
And if we got to one of these particular spots––of which there would be many––quickly and carefully enough, we’d find little drops on the sand where tears had fallen from the sure one’s cheeks as well.
After this, if we zoom out and take a bird’s eye view, and we go along following the rest of the long and winding track, we probably wouldn’t realize it until near the end, but at some point, the second, weak set of steps, quit appearing as often. And at the very end, there would be only the one set of steady and sure steps.
Perplexed, we’d have to go in and take a closer look one last time. If we retraced the steady steps, we’d see that sometimes there were extra toes, or the heel of a foot off to the side, but that many of the very last steps seemed a little heavier and deeper in the sand.
To discern what happened near the end, we would need some time to sit and think. We might even be stumped for awhile, until we realize that the weaker one must have given up on walking on their own and contented themselves with being held by the one who was faithful and true, walking on top of His feet like a child with their parent.