Can you see them? The footprints in the sand? No, this isn't a sappy re-rendering of the famous "Footprints in the Sand" poem, though I find that lovely and have drawn on its truth many times.
When on my last writing retreat in April, I walked from my room to sit and pray on a bench above the shore. It was early morning. My attention was drawn to this tractor, which was going up and down the beach smoothing out the sand. However, it seemed that as soon as it would pass any particular point, some other early-morning walker/runner/prayer would have the nerve to mar the pristine section the machine left behind. I thought, how useless! All that work and yet it gets messed up as soon as the tractor passes by!
The voice of God then gently directed my attention to the area of shore where the sand met the sea. People walked there also, but the sand remained smooth. Why? Because the sea constantly washed their footprints away.
Suddenly I had the message.
See, I'm often on the tractor side of this whole picture. I often feel cluttered and fragmented in my head. I never get everything done that I'm supposed to do. I forget what God said to me in my morning reading and don't follow through with my resolves. I forget to pray (gasp! yes it's true). I ignore stuff on my to-do list, then kick myself for doing so. I get to the end of the day and feel like there are meandering footprints all over my desires to live like God wants me to live. Go to bed feeling defeated and like a complete failure.
I wake up the next morning and rev up the tractor. I "clean up" yesterday's "footprints" on this beautiful shoreline called My Life on this Planet by resolving to do better, obey better. I read my Bible again, confess again, pray again, resolve again, and head out into my life...only to footprint all over it in no time. Call that tractor back!
But God whispered to me, "Walk by the water."
Water in the Bible usually represents a few different things: a fresh start from sin, the presence of the Holy Spirit, eternal life.
When I walk surrendered to Jesus, knowing I belong to my heavenly Father FOREVER, allowing the Holy Spirit to wash my footprints and nudge me through the day, I can look back at the end of the day and see--clean sand.
It's easier said than done, of course. But the visual above helps me to remember it. I can call the tractor back time after time all day long, or I can walk by the water.
Later in the day, on a break from writing, I did just that. Kicked off my flip flops and walked down at the shore line for a couple of miles, feeling the breeze, smelling the salt water, hearing the crash of the waves clear out my head. I rolled up my pants and waded through the clean, clear surf as it fizzled over the sand and washed it clean.
Yes, eventually I had to leave the beach and resume Life, and I can't say I've "walked by the water" every day since--many tractor tracks at this house, unfortunately--but that's just the point. As soon as I remember, and head for the shoreline, it's ok. Because the sea will continue flowing in to cover--and ebbing out to remove--the footprints for every minute of every hour of every day of every year until I go into eternity.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do
therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1
"Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Galatians 5:25