footprints_in_the_sand_flip_flopsGrowing up, “Footprints in the Sand” was the kind of Christian poetry that everyone agreed to like without question. It was like the WWJD bracelet of literature. By my middle school years it was everywhere. You could get it on a quilt, on a print, and even on actual flip flops. If I’m being really honest with you, I had to read it like 5 times before I understood what the writer was saying. My initial thoughts upon reading it were:

  1. Wait! What happened to my feet?
  2. Wait! Why did Jesus leave?
  3. Wait! Did I just die?

So, after that confusing math game, I found little consolation in something that everyone else seemed to find very consoling. Such is the nature of my spiritual life as a middle-schooler. And so I just nodded and smiled when people referenced the “Footprints Poem” as a means to make me feel better:

Middle School Sarah: I’m having such a hard time with boys/braces/believing in anything.

Helpful Christian Middle School Friend: Footprints Poem quote.

Middle School Sarah: Oh. Right. Thanks.

Recently, this long forgotten, somewhat confusing poem circled back into my mind again when I saw a video about a young woman named Kayla Montgomery:

While I understand the love of the Footprints poem, Jesus catching me has rarely felt like a moment on the beach when I realize that God has gently picked me up. And it has felt so much more like a desperately needed collision. One where I am caught and held as I whisper: Please help me. Please help me. Please help me.

I find it is often at the end of those longest days in our household when Jesus scoops me up. Our days are filled with exercises in self-justification because we all live with an elevated view of the law. We hear from Jesus in the fulfillment of the law an elevated expectation:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

These days I have my own elevated expectation of the law that comes entirely from my own sinsick heart:

You have heard it said that you should work hard, but I tell you that you should work harder than everyone else. You have heard it said that you should be a good wife, but I tell you that you should be the best. You have heard it said that you should be the best Room Mom for your kid’s Pre-K 4 class, but I tell you that you should make the other Room Mom’s envious of your Room Mom prowess.

ssOTBOf course, this self-imposed elevation of human law is never my lived reality. I am a decent employee. I am a good-enough wife. And last week my child’s classroom had a music performance and so as Room Mom I was in charge of bringing the flowers for the music teacher (MY ONE RESPONSIBILITY), which I forgot. So, 3 for 3.

Our friend Martin Luther had his own version of this:

“I tried to live according to the Rule with all diligence, and I used to be contrite, to confess and number my sins, and often repeated my confession, and sedulously performed my allotted penance. And yet my conscience could never give me certainty, but I always doubted and said, ‘You did not perform that correctly. You were not contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.’ The more I tried to remedy an uncertain, weak and afflicted conscience with the traditions of men, the more each day found it more uncertain, weaker, more troubled.”

I cannot meet my own ridiculous standards. Thank heaven that God is so much more merciful to me than I am to myself. We hear in Revelations 7 that God will wipe away every tear. I trust that He also wipes away our need to be the best, brightest, and most interesting person in the room. Good Lord, deliver me from myself.

As the narrator on Kayla’s story says: We need to begin where the race ends. This video of Kayla popped into my head one evening after a typical day of holier-than-thou meets vain importance. I had literally fallen into bed. And I lay there for a moment in silence. And all I could think was:

Help me. Help me. Help me, Lord. I can’t feel my legs.

This was a real prayer for me. An end of the day collect. It was a Footprints poem that I could understand. After our days of self-righteousness, of making ourselves feel so much more important than we want to be, I am allowed to fall into the arms of my Savior. I am allowed to not feel my feet. To be caught. To be loved. To be beloved. To hear Jesus say to me, “I got you.”