We were taking an early morning walk on the beach this April whilst on holidays. In front of me was my wonderful husband and our four treasured children, all enjoying a lovely walk on the wet shimmering sand next to a calm crisp flat ocean. Our 4-year-old son was right in front of me stepping into the footprints of my husband who was already much further ahead with the girls. He was enjoying matching his little feet onto the footprints of his father, but after a few minutes started crying out in frustration that he couldn't step into them anymore. The big footprints were getting further apart in stride and even though my little boy was stretching towards the next, it was not within his reach. He cried that it was too difficult for him. I held him for a moment and explained to him that his daddy's steps were bigger, that he would grow into them one day, and suggested that maybe in the meantime he could go ahead jumping and off he went leaping. I called for my husband to wait and as he turned around, I watched on as our son began to run towards his open arms that grabbed, lifted and held him up in an embrace. He lifted our son onto his shoulders and carried on walking forward.
It was this beautiful moment which God reminded me of one Friday morning while praying with a friend and again recently during a church prayer meeting while I was looking down at my own steps.
Over the past weeks I've been thinking and searching through scriptures of all the times when Jesus said the words "Follow me". I focussed on when Jesus called His first disciples:
Matthew 4:18-22 NLT The First Disciples
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Notice how those to whom Jesus spoke the words "Follow me" immediately stopped and left everything to do so!
I had been pondering about this, questioning my own commitment and then this past weekend one of our pastors at church spoke about this very subject. He gave me some answers as well as furthered my understanding into these very scriptures. The pastor gave us some First Century context about a rabbi and his following disciples: A hand-picked disciple would follow the rabbi by copying and doing everything the rabbi does or did.
This knowledge made me realise that when Jesus spoke and asked those first disciples to follow Him, they already had an understanding that they would have to "lay down" their own ways, plans and priorities.
I also think they probably felt honoured and valued to be asked to follow Jesus as these men were ordinary men and word was already going around that Jesus was a prophet, possibly the Messiah and therefore a very significant important man?
As our pastor said, following Jesus was a decision that called for commitment and action and I think these men were obviously ready to take it on when they stopped and left everything to follow Him. When we decide to follow Jesus, we also must commit to follow His ways, in other words; copy Him.
In the moment on the beach in which my son was following his daddy's footsteps, I can't help but see this relating to the call of Jesus to follow Him. Remember how at first my son was happily following and stepping into those footprints, but then cried that it became too difficult and he couldn't step into the next step as they became further apart in stride?
If I'm honest, in the same way it feels or sometimes seems to me as though following Jesus' footsteps is too difficult to do. For me it might feel, in a particular moment or season of life, that He is expecting too much of me as I lack the experience or capabilities. Perhaps I don't have the courage in my stride and I'm thinking the step He is requiring of me would be too far to reach.
On that day when my little son cried out in frustration, I encouraged him to jump to be able to reach into those steps. I went to look up the word leap in the dictionary. Firstly, as a verb, it means to jump or spring a long way, to great height, or with great force. Secondly, as a noun meaning a forceful jump or quick movement. In other words, a step takes an action on our part but a leap takes more effort, even focus and strength.
I have been wondering and asking God why He reminded me of that morning on the beach when I was questioning myself about my following Jesus. Is it that instead of following the footsteps of Jesus and walking with Him, I sometimes find myself realising I'll have to LEAP into His footsteps?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour, laying down His life in love for us was the ultimate sacrifice. Compared to Him, I am not worthy or able to follow, let alone step into His footsteps?
I remember as I called for my husband to wait on the beach that day. As he turned around, I watched on as our son then began to run towards his opened arms that grabbed, lifted and held him and then he carried him forward.
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
The Message reads like this:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
When I was praying with that friend of mine and told her about that beautiful beach memory, both of us thought of the 'Footprints in the Sand' poem.
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."
Isn't that a wonderful truth about a Loving Father God who is with us every step of our way with Him?
You might be going through a challenging time.
Perhaps you are waiting for a miracle.
Brian & Jenn Johnson sing the song 'You're Gonna Be OK'
You can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/oC2nWFV6nFU
The chorus start as follows:
Just take, one step, closer.
Put one foot in front of the other.
You'll, get through this.
Just follow the light in the darkness.
Be encouraged that you are not alone in the journey.
For your reference also see:
-Mark 1:16-20, 2:13-14, Luke 51-11, 27-28, 14:25-34, John 1:35-50.
-I found the following helpful explanation which you can read here: https://bible.org/article/being-first-century-disciple