I want to share a poem that has meant a lot to me since I was a child. The name of the poem is Footprints In The Sand. No one truly knows the who the author is. And there are at least four slightly different versions that I have personally seen. I have one of them hanging on the wall of my bedroom.
Footprints In The Sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
My personal “footprints”
I guess in my case it should be footprints and tire marks. Sinking sand perhaps? I definitely need his help for the beach. Wheelchairs and sand don’t mix.
Seriously though, when I was growing up and slowly losing physical abilities there were times that it didn’t feel like God was with me or even cared or noticed. Living in northern states in the winter, and in general, without being able to walk and play with the other kids made for a lonely existence.
I grew up before, way before, the Americans with Disabilities Act which mandated accessibility and equal access. It started to be enforced when I was halfway through high school. So my opportunities for education and recreation began to be easier in my college years. It wasn’t perfect and still isn’t but has helped greatly.
My family and I moved to Florida when I was in the 6th grade. It was great because a lot of places had great access. Florida was mostly a state for retirees at the time so things were designed with older people in mind who’s health may be deteriorating.
I could go outside all year long. I usually didn’t have to worry about whether or not I would be able to get off and on the sidewalk. This may not seem like much but for a kid who uses a wheelchair it was a huge thing. Freedom. It was easy to see God walking with me.
Then, around the time I started high school, I started to feel isolated and lonely, and like no one understood me and I had no one to talk too. Partly because of the usual adjustments that go along with starting a new phase of life. But there was also family dynamics issues that weren’t healthy. It wasn’t abusive but definitely wasn’t healthy. All that would take several posts.
My family stopped going to church, the church wasn’t healthy either. Our church painted God as a God to be feared. So that ended up a good thing in the long run. One or two people tried to arrange for me to go or at least conference call in. But person after person let me down. I eventually turned my back on God. I never stopped believing in God. But figured that if I couldn’t do anything to make him happy then why try to.
Then my brother’s health started to deteriorate as well as mine. My brother had the same condition I do and died at 23. When I was born, doctors said I’d die by 16. So I decided not to get close to anyone and wait to die.
I couldn’t see how God could let someone be born just to die young. As my health got worse my dad’s addiction got worse. As an adult I know that isn’t what happened. That it was his choice, I had no control over that. But a kid growing up doesn’t have the ability to make that distinction. Even if it’s not said a child will internalize it and subconsciously will believe it..
He carried me…
Then when I started college my dad went to prison for a year. But before that I stopped breathing and wound up in the hospital. Then I ended up using a ventilator for the rest of my life. When I was in the hospital I was scared to death and was asking God where he was. At that moment I felt his presence in the room and a physical touch. That reassured me that there was a god of some sort out there. I swore that if he got me through that hospital stay.
I kept that promise, eventually. I would look into different religions and beliefs sporadically over the next 12-15 years. But during that time I went down a bad path myself. Developed my own addictions and bad habits. Went to the clubs and got drunk most weekends. I probably weighed 80 pounds soaking wet. It’s amazing that I didn’t get alcohol poisoning.
I went to these places hoping to have a good time and feel better about myself. But all I got was more loneliness and isolation. And a hangover on top of it all.
Through all of this God was looking out for me and even calling me to him. I wasn’t able to see it while I was going through the hard times though. I only saw it in hindsight. They do say hindsight is 20/20 after all.
I do have some good memories as a kid. There were times when I felt no one cared that people would make an effort to do things with me. One time when I was especially depressed a party was had at my house with a bunch of kids from church. God was there. I saw it only as an adult.
When I isolated myself as a teenager, God was there. He didn’t enjoy seeing me isolated but I can see times when he comforted me through the people who got to know me despite myself. I also learned self reliance. He carried me through and gave me a heart for those of us who do the same.
… even when things went from bad to worse.
At this time, things went from bad to worse with my family. God surrounded my family with people who cared and helped us when we were in need. Most of them were the nurses I had at the time. One went so far as to let us rent her house dirt cheap. We had no idea how we were going to survive. It would have been so easy to just give up. God carried my whole family through that. I think it was then that I started to realize that not everyone will let me down.
Also, if God hadn’t intervened with my dad’s addiction, my dad would be dead. He was given a second chance, one that was undeserved and took it to help other addicts. God took the seemingly worst and used it for his glory. God carried us through so much even if we didn’t even see what he was doing.
Eventually I made good on my promise to search God out. That is a story in and of itself.
I think if we look back on our lives we all can see moments or seasons where the only reason we came through it had to be God carrying us.
What I find awe inspiring is that God carries us through whether we want him to or not. All of the things I mentioned were long before I became a believer. He carried me right into his kingdom and family. Thank you Jesus.