the Naked Celt (nakedcelt) wrote,
the Naked Celt
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Footprints



Just because I disagree with an awful lot about Christianity doesn't mean it's utterly crappy in every way. Footprints, on the other hand...

In case you haven't encountered Footprints before, this is the original ending:
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it:
"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The LORD replied:
"My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Awww.

Bleaagh.

The first thing that stands out about this is the cloying saccharine sentimentality. The second thing, and the thing that bothers me far more, is: what does it actually mean?

To be fair, let's compare it with another expression of much the same sentiment: The Loom of Time.
Man's life is laid in the loom of time
To a pattern he does not see,
While the weavers work and the shuttles fly
Till the dawn of eternity...

Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the reason why

The dark threads were as needful
In the weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
For the pattern which He planned.
Similarly saccharine, but, unlike Footprints, it's a coherent metaphor. God knows why trouble has to be, we don't, he'll tell us when it's all over. One could (and I do) query why anything would be "needful" to an omnipotent God, or why an all-loving God would want his pattern to include the "dark threads" of pain, suffering, and evil — or, for that matter, why he couldn't or wouldn't arrange matters so's we could see the pattern too. Those quibbles aside, the point is you can figure out what the metaphor means in plain language. But what does Footprints mean?

OK, so this guy's walking along with God, right, I get that. Metaphor for life (if you happen to be a Christian). So it seems, at the darkest times of life, like God isn't there. I get that.

So it turns out that the real reason why it seems like God isn't there is because he's doing all the work for us at those times. And, um, the reason why God doing all the work would seem like God not being there is because, well, er, because...

...because...

...because you wouldn't have a sweet "Awww" moment after reading Footprints otherwise. Seriously, what the hell does it mean?

At the darkest times of our lives, does God take over, over-ride our free will and vicariously experience our suffering instead of us? That can't be right. But if not, then in what sense does God "carry" us?

Look, I can see how it would be comforting to have a holding hand during bad times. But then God should be walking alongside, there should still be two sets of footprints, and it shouldn't seem like God ain't there.

I don't get it. And, in this particular case, I think it's because there's nothing to get. "I carried you" makes sense only in terms of the beach image; try and translate it into literal or practical ideas about life and it's meaningless. Mary Stevenson hasn't presented the world with a clever theological parable. She's presented it with a piece of sentimental crap.

Oh, and the latest Gyro is now online.
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