Many of my childhood summer holidays were spent at my grandparent’s lovely old weatherboard home on the edge of a very long and sandy beach in the north of New Zealand. In fact the beach is commonly called 99 Mile Beach, but is actually less than that in length. On fine summer days when the tide was low there were vast expanses of golden sand and it seemed to our young minds that the beach extended into infinity. We spent long hours playing on that beach, hunting for cod and crabs in the rock pools that dotted the beach, racing each other between them and hoping to be the first to find the next treasure the sea had left behind. Occasionally a pool just perfect for young children sat beside a mound of rocks and we would have a bit of a swim in the sun warmed water.
It wasn't just a beach for children, it was a beach for grownups also. Those who had finished their active working lives, or for those who wanted somewhere to 'get away from it all' in the weekends. They found quiet and solitude in the softness of the sand and the sounds of the sea s they wandered the length of the beach alone or with company. You could always tell where they had been by the trail of footprints in the sand. Some were long striding steps, others smaller, some deep, some more shallow, those with children trailing along behind them, and those who walked with a piece of driftwood or cane in hand.
We used to play a game with those footprints. We challenged each other to see who could walk in a grownup's footsteps for the longest without having to take steps in between. It was easy to do for the first three or four steps, stretching out our small legs as far as they could go, feeling triumphant and very pleased with ourselves each time we reached another step. The fourth and fifth steps became a bit more of a struggle. We would stop and take a deep breath and concentrate very intensely on placing our legs and bodies in just the right position; as though we were competing for a gold medal in an Olympic race. Then we would let all of that effort go in one great burst and jump. We didn't always make it. We would often fall short of the mark, but we would keep trying until our little legs ran out of energy or the footsteps disappeared from the sand.
Being in a daily relationship with Jesus can be a little like that children's game - trying to follow in the footsteps He has left behind. Many times I've hit the mark, but just as many times I've missed it too. Always though, He has been there in front of me, beckoning me, encouraging me to keep trying to match my prints to His. Stretching out into the place where He has gone before me.
My encouragement to you is to never, ever give up. That even when we feel we have missed the mark some how and our spiritual legs are tired and weary and the footsteps seem too deep and too far apart, there is always hope and there is always help. When we mix those with our faith, His promises, His grace and His mercy, we can grab His hand and make it into the next footstep.