I was about nine or ten years old, and we were living at Hamilton Air Force Base in California. My friend Kim lived about five houses down from us, and I had just arrived at her house to pick her up for a playdate. While I waited in their hallway, a framed story on the wall caught my eye. Not knowing how affected I would be by it, I casually walked over to read it.
Just to be clear, I was not raised in a religious household of any kind, but there was some part of me that always felt a connection to God. I started praying around this time in my life, not really knowing how to do it or who I was praying to. But each night I'd run off a list of loved ones and ask God to "bless them." This list also included every animal I knew or had ever known. It took a while.
A lot of this influence actually came from my friend's mom, Valerie. (Mrs. K to me back then!) She was (and remains to this day) a woman of strong faith, and had the most gentle and loving nature of anyone I knew. Sure, I'd see her yell at her kids sometimes -- what mother doesn't? But she always made me feel welcome, and had a sense of love and warmth around her that I loved being near. I joined them in attending church many times over the years, and to this day I feel as at home in a Catholic church as I do in a non-demoninational church. And God bless her, she's responsible for my love of Amy Grant. She even took me to my first Amy concert! I can still remember her leaning over and explaining that "Jehovah" means God. That still makes me smile.
Getting back to what I read on the wall...
I'll never forget reading it for the first time, and how it clutched my heart in a way that so few things ever do. I was touched by the tenderness and love that fills the last line, and I'm certain that this was what led me to start following the path that would eventually lead me to becoming a Christian.
You all know it -- it's Footprints.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.
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 of 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 precious, 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.