Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Footprints of Jesus

Isn't it funny how our understanding of favorite hymns changes as we grow?  Some songs I didn't understand as a child.  The Yoda-like syntax of "Love Lifted Me" always threw me for a loop:

He's the master of the sea, billows his will obey
He your savior wants to be, be saved today. 

I was a teenager when I realized the words mean

He's the master of the sea, the billows obey his will
He wants to be your savior, be saved today.

Other songs were too symbolic for my literal mind.  "Onward Christian Soldiers" is a wonderful, stirring hymn, but as a child, I imagined Christians in full armor marching toward the gates of hell! Again, I had to mature before I understood that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12), and our weapon is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).  

Another song whose symbolism escaped me was Footprints of Jesus.  

Footprints of Jesus that make the pathway glow
We will follow the steps of Jesus where e'er they go.

Of course, I imagined glowing footprints, and myself following.  I've told you that I imagined Jesus had a specific calling for each person.  I lived in fear that I would miss it and be left out of God's work.  If I had paid more attention to the lyrics of the song, I would have known that following Jesus involves doing what He did, and I have the instruction manual at my bedside, on my Kindle, and hidden in my heart.  I don't have to wait for a whisper in my ear telling me what to do.  I do have to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to see what Jesus did and follow him accordingly.

Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Footprints in the mud - - 1140102Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee. 

Though they lead o'er the cold, dark mountains,
Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam's fountains,
Helping the weak. 

When we read the Bible, as when we sing the song, we can see Jesus's footsteps so clearly.  He went places no one else would go to seek the lost.  From the tombs where the demon-possessed man lived to the well in Samaria to the houses of sinners, Jesus was always seeking someone to save.  And although his stated goal was not to heal or to feed, he never turned down any sick or hungry person who asked for his help. Following in Jesus's steps means doing the same.  I must go out of my way to seek those who are lost, even if those places are not pleasant.  I must keep an open eye for people with physical needs I can help to meet.

I am not trying to invalidate anyone's belief that God has given them a specific calling.  I am trying to say that we all have general callings: to seek the lost, to care for the weak among us, and to love like Jesus loved.  Will answering these callings take us out of our comfort zones?  Sometimes.  

If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain. 

Jesus was called to go to the cross, and He asks us to take up our cross EVERY DAY to follow him.   We may not follow Jesus as far as death, but we are called to be a "living sacrifice."

As I look back at my memories of singing this song, I realize that my first image was probably the most accurate.  While I may not be able to see literal glowing footprints, my pathway is illuminated.  "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Jesus is the word of God, and he gives me the steps to follow every day.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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