Monday, 12 May 2014

Faith, Hope and Love (OR Footprints)

One of my most favourite poems is this Footprints. The authorship of Footprints has always been hotly contested, and I have heard some incredible stories about the creation of this piece. It's about a person who is watching his life pass by on a beach, and notices that there are mostly two sets of footprints in the sand, his and God's. But when the tough times come, there is only one set of footprints. He cries out to God, demanding to know why God would leave when He was most needed. God replies:

"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."


A few things have been happening beyond my world lately, and it was while reading a blog by Chris Arndale that I recalled the Footprints poem. Chris has written two blogs (here and here) about being a "fallen atheist" (his words, not mine). He says this:

Some have suggested to me that maybe if the addicts stopped having false hope it would be incentive for them to get clean, to get this life in order.

Addiction and the forces of poverty are stronger than that.

The belief that there is happiness beyond this earth is often the only thing that gets them through tough days.

I used to say to them, “I am thinking of you.”

I now say, “I will pray for you.”
I am in danger of becoming a fallen Atheist. 

If you have never seen the work of Chris, I strongly encourage you to do so. He photographs in Hunts Point with a journalist approach. He photographs a lot of moments - the good and the bad, and mostly the faces of addiction who also happen to have become his friend. I would say subjects to imply that Chris takes photographs of them, but that isn't truly valuing his relationship with them. Why photograph addicts and do so in many public forums? Simply because he cares and he wants their stories to be told. The two blogs I read today made me cry a little, because I pray for them too. When Shelly decided to get clean and took on a new job - and perhaps turned over a new leaf - I was so excited, until she went back to her addiction. And I don't know Shelly, or Sonya or Eric or any of these people. But I care about them because they mean something to someone who cares enough to share them with the rest of the world.

On a very different note, I read a book last week by one of my colleagues, who wanted to share his cancer story with others. What I really valued more than anything (other than football references) was that there were two lists in the book of people who visited him during his stay in hospital. There were two reasons why the lists were created - he wanted to acknowledge them and also, because he didn't ever want to forget who had made the time to come and see him. Friendship is extraordinary and I am constantly amazed at the care and concern that people share for one another.

For a long time I thought that it was the teachings of Christ which led people to be so kind to one another. Now I realise that despite religious differences, despite disagreements, despite almost everything, people will pull together when the time calls for it. Even the small things are treasured, and to me that is vital to ensuring that communities stick together when time is tough.

For anyone who has ever had to cling to hope to get through the day, there's a great reason why it is bunched between love and faith.

For a very long time I believed that while there is life, there is hope. In many ways that isn't incorrect - people can be healed, cured and live long lives. But still, I have now changed that to while there is love, there is hope. Why change that? To quote Tully, we beat on. Because we love we can continue to hope for a better tomorrow, always.

The stories Chris tells are still ones of hope, and of faith, and of love.

Love is what gets us through the hard times, even when we don't deserve it, even when distance gets in the way, even when we are a little bit cuckoo-bananas and stop coping.

Faith is the acknowledgement of the presence of a Higher Being - whatever your flavour of religion (or not) is. Faith can be believing what we cannot see, or, believing and acknowledging what we can see. And hope?

Hope is believing in tomorrows.

Hope is Scarlett O'Hara declaring 'After all, tomorrow is another day.'

Hope is that expectation that something will come to fruition, even when it seems impossible.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:11-13)

The Footprints Prayer

One night I had a dream...
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would 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 in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.
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