As a young 22 year old Australian backpacking through Europe, a friend I met along the road gave me a much treasured copy of your Footprints poem. Despite being a Christian most of my life, I’d never come across your poem before. All of a sudden, it was like all my matches had been lit at once, sparking such a fire. Naturally, the poem was particularly poignant being a traveller at the time. I felt understood…a very rare experience for me at the time!
While backpacking is supposedly about seeing and discovering the world, it can also become a journey deep inside yourself. Without the structure of a schedule, having no fixed plans, being far away from family, friends and any kind of personal history and simply drifting with the wind, you could easily feel like an atom drifting through space. Such freedom is incredible and indeed, I didn’t even have a watch but it’s all too easy to slip into some kind of existential angst.
Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is this nagging feeling inside which I can’t quite explain? When am I going home? What am I going to do with the rest of my life?
Of course, the quest to find true love, weaves its tentacles through all of this.
Personally, I also had a pool of excess fluid sloshing around inside my brain, which I sort of knew was there although I didn’t know what it was. I simply turned to my faith, writing, philosophy, psychology and the humble cup of coffee for the answers I desperately sought.
Overseas travel is quite different for young Australians. Given the high cost of getting to Europe, many of us save like crazy and then try to stay away as long as possible. While this makes for a grand adventure, it can also mean serious homesickness and dislocation. At least, it did for me and I wasn’t alone. I heard quite a few Aussies hanging out for the scent of gum leaves. I had a an Australia $5.00 note stuck up in my room in Heidelberg where I lived for about 6 months.
As you could appreciate, I came across your poem at an intensely confusing and vulnerable time and it fortified me. Gave me such strength, knowing I wasn’t alone. That God was walking along this path with me and when the going got tough, he picked me up and carried me on his shoulders, just like a parent carries their child…right out of the quagmire. It was truly transforming. While The Bible is the word of God, somehow you translated its complexity into something I could understand, bringing alive God’s infinite love for me.
Thank you so very much for that. I know your poem still speaks to so many, possibly at a time when it might feel like the light’s gone out. Helping the broken-hearted to rekindle that light is life changing.
I hope that I share some of that light with those I meet and through my writing. It is not that easy for me to have that physical presence but I try to share what you gave to me all those years ago…hope!
Love and God’s richest blessings,
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
– by Mary Stevenson
This is the latest installment in my series of Letters To Dead Poets for the A-Z Challenge. Please click here to catch up on Letters A-H. This list will be updated on Sunday.