Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Truth about Footprints in the Sand

You’ve probably heard the story of “Footprints in the Sand.” It’s all about a person who looked back on her life and saw two sets of footprints in the sand as God walked beside her. But then, she noticed that when she went through the toughest times, she only saw one set of footprints. When she questioned God about it she was informed that there is only one set of footprints because in those times God carried her. Well, that is pure, unadulterated hooey! It’s not the way it works at all.

Beyond a doubt, the lowest time of my life came after my marriage ended and I moved to a new city to begin again. On a Tuesday I was in court finalizing my divorce, and then on Saturday of that same week, I loaded a Ryder truck with all my earthly possessions and moved 500 miles away to a city where I knew no one. I soon discovered that although I had moved to a new location, I was not yet ready to move on to a new place in my life.

The losses in my life were considerable. I left my son, who would be entering his senior year of high school, and he understandably opted to move in with his father, so my nest suddenly became empty. I was alone for the first time in over twenty years. I left dear friends who had been my support system in both the best and worst times of my life. I left a church I loved so much that I had hoped to stay there until I retired. And then, of course, there was the matter of my marriage ending. Even though it had been harmful to me on so many levels, I still felt a loss. The future I had dreamed of would never be. I had to let it all go.

Trying to figure out how to navigate this wilderness time of my life, I only seemed to find myself more lost in the thick of it. I engaged in self-destructive behavior that just made matters worse. I hated myself and felt like I had become such a miserable failure that what I wanted most was simply to disappear from the face of the earth.

Although I had always prided myself on standing on my own two feet and solving my problems without help from anyone else, I had reached a time in my life when I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. As I prayed, “God, help me!”, I trusted that God would empower me to get my act together so that I could put all this messiness behind me and go on with my life.

As is usually the case, God answered my prayer in a way I hadn’t expected. I thought it was all about God and me. But I learned that God doesn’t come to me in a vacuum. He always comes to me through other people. In fact, that’s the way it works for all of us. It’s why God gives us the gift of community, so that we can be conduits of his love for one another.

Looking back over my life, I can see that during the worst times there are so many sets of footprints in the sand that it would be impossible to tell where one starts and another stops. They are the footprints of family members, supportive friends, an insightful therapist, and a loving faith community, all people God placed in my life to help me through the roughest times. They are the answer to my desperate prayer, “God, help me!”

One set of footprints? Never!