Monday, September 3, 2012

God's Footprints in the Mud

The poem you probably remember speaks of two sets of footprints walking side by side in the white, spongy sand.  It might even hang from a wall in your home.  I'll admit it still brings tears to my eyes when the author reveals the two sets of prints become one holy set when God carried the poem's speaker through the hardest times of life.

In the images I've seen accompanying the poem, it is always of a peaceful, abandoned beach, a tranquil repose from the storms of life.  Cool, steady winds blow in off the ocean against the rhythmic sound of white-capped waves washing in to continually erase the pristine shoreline.

Yes, it's a gorgeous poem of how God cares for his children. But as a south-Louisiana woman who has been to the beach less than a dozen times in her life, it just doesn't ring completely true.

In fact, the ease and beauty of the imagery isn't at all how I have experienced my God caring for me.

In my mind, I see those same footprints, but they're not an imprint of five distinct toes and perfect arches against an endless, flat walking surface.  Instead, they're deep boot prints already back-filled with standing water from the swampy marshes and forests where palmettos are as prolific as pines.

This walking through the mud that sucks at my boots and splatters my entire body with each misstep--it's arduous and messy, just like life's struggles.  And sometimes? It reeks of death from under the marsh's surface where the vegetation melts back into primordial ooze.

As I struggle to just move forward, the mud cakes up on my boots, my legs, making each step more difficult.  If I stop to look behind me, I see those two lines of puddles where the prints would be--deep hole after deep hole imprinted across an already lumpy landscape where others have trod before me amongst rotten logs' decay and the sometimes knee-high underbrush that threatens to take back what part of creation it claims as its own.

I look down at my legs, arms, clothing and realize I both look and smell like I've gone through one of life's trials.  Yet, I keep slogging through the marsh.

Against a backdrop of crickets' rubbing wings, bird's flutter and chirp overhead while small hidden animals below scurry away from the mud's rhythmic sucking sound as I pull up my foot for each step.

Then, when I can't go any further, when I am simply too exhausted to pull out my mud-caked boot one more time, I look back to see my boot tops left sticking out of the mud along with a single line of footprints, only this time, I notice how much larger and deeper those prints are than before, the result of my God carrying my heavy load through the difficult terrain.    

This past month has been one of those times when God has carried me through the muddy swamp.

He has carried me through my oldest son leaving the home school setting to start public school kindergarten.  Then, when I thought I might could walk again, I needed God to carry me through Hurricane Isaac with its tree-topping winds and over a foot of water turning the hay fields to rice paddies.

Even when I couldn't see God carrying me, He continually gave reminders to me and numerous others that He was there.  The morning before the hurricane came ashore, friends, church members, and family were constantly posting pictures of rainbows.
Before the storm, our farm's skies lit up in this sign of covenant spanning our home.  And the evening after the storm, He did the same thing, painting a full double rainbow that stretched from one side of the hay field to the other.

My heart that had been anxious for days received the blessing, understood the miracle He was sending.  My God had taken the time to stoop down and remind my family that He was here before the storm, He was here in the storm, and He was still here after the storm.

When the waters began to recede and the electricity turned back on, I looked behind me and could see, once again, my boots stuck firmly in the mud behind that one set of deep prints carrying me through it all.

Images: Put together, the pictures make a complete rainbow arching over our farm.

Writing in Community with Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus


  1. Stunning, Jennifer! And so beautifully told in your hands. I'm glad you're on this side of the storm. We've been praying for you.

    Also, my sister, Lynda ... I told her how Isaac was headed your way, and she was praying, too -- just as you had done for her -- for all of us -- after the accident. We are so grateful for you, Jennifer.

  2. Bless you both for the prayers. We are a community of praying people--I don't know non Christians live without that support system. :-)