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Footprints in our Path

During the summer of 2018, my family and I had the opportunity to go to Banff National Park in Canada. This was one of the most beautiful spots I traveled to with enormous mountains. They are like the Rocky Mountains but a thousand times bigger. The lakes there are literally so light blue; they look like the light blue Gatorade we all used to drink. And one of the coolest parts about this park was the hiking trails. My family and I are all big hikers.

While at Banff, we found a strenuous trail that went from one of the lakes up the side of a mountain. One thing unexpected about this trail was the time of year we went. There was actually an avalanche a couple of days before that was still melting very slowly. We knew this could be an obstacle. On the way up the mountain, we had parts of the trail that were fully covered in snow, and we were walking between two huge mounds of snow on both sides of us. Eventually, going up the hill, the whole trail was covered in this avalanche of snow, so it was impossible to figure out where the path went.

The only guide we had was looking down at the ground and seeing where the previous hikers' footprints went. Their footprints were our guide. Eventually, about halfway up, the snow became so thick, it became hard to follow the trail, and it was getting darker, so we had to turn back. On our way back, we retraced our footsteps back down the mountain to the lake.

Whenever any of us go to one of the many beaches near Tampa, one of the first things we all probably do is look down at our feet and see the footprints we made in the sand. Some of us might walk near the water to see how long the prints would last before the water pushes them away or make crazy trails of footprints for our friends to try and walk in. At least I like to do those things when I go to the beach. So, these footprints we make are something we all see and understand. I want to apply this idea to our spiritual walk with God.

Now, I’d like to look at Jeremiah 6. To set the context for this passage, Jeremiah was sent as a prophet to tell God's people to turn away from their sins of idolatry and injustice and prophesied the nation of Babylon was coming in to take them into exile. We learn of Jeremiah's mission in the first chapter where the LORD says that:

"I have set you this day over the nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
Jeremiah 1.10

This shows us Jeremiah's message was one not only of judgment, but also hope for his people. He called out their breaking of the covenant and the injustices they committed.

Now read with me the first part of Jeremiah 6.16a. It reads,

"Thus says the LORD: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls."

This was his message: the people had gone off the path God wanted them on, and now they must turn back. They must ask for the ancient paths to find the good way and walk in it.

Just like my hike in the mountains, we turned around to see our old trail of our footprints in the snow to lead us back to our destination. God tells us this same message today. When we start straying from the way we are supposed to live, we must look back at where we came from. We have to find the excellent path that God wants for us and follow it. We have to have the humility to honestly look at our lives and see if we are striving to walk in God's ways. We have to study and seek to find the good and ancient paths. When we turn back and see the footsteps that lead us back to Christ, we can find rest for our souls.

Our footprints show us our path back to God when we might wander away from God's right way. But it can also be said that we follow in the footsteps of those that came before us as a guide. Just like on my hike, when it was hard to find the right path, we had to look for the footprints of those that hiked before us to help us find our way up the mountain on our journey.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is just one small example of these paths of imperfect people striving to follow God. Abraham had great faith in God that he would resurrect Isaac. Moses chose to associate with the weak and oppressed and led them to freedom. Towards the second half of Hebrews 11, starting in verse 33, we see a list of unnamed heroes of faith and their journeys and sacrifices they made. They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, made strong out of weakness; some were tortured, suffering mocking and flogging. These all suffered oppression and mistreatment but still fought to stay on the path.

We can follow in their footsteps of examples to live by. They were not perfect people, just like we are not perfect people, but we can strive to follow God's path. In Micah 6.8, it reads,

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

By looking ahead at the footprints in front of us, we can learn about how others try to walk by the ancient paths that eventually led to finding peaceful rest.

So first, we look back to our old footprints when we start to drift away to see the way back to the old paths found on the narrow way that leads to God. We can also look ahead at those that have gone before us and succeed in walking with God. Then finally, we can ourselves leaving footprints for those to follow after us. Paul says in Philippians 3.17,

“Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the examples you have in us.”

We can be an example for those struggling to walk with God in His path and use what we have learned from our experiences to help them. We can walk together with them. We can walk with each other as a close community, towards heaven.

So now whether you are looking at your footprints in the snow on your next hike through the mountains or looking at your footprints at one of the beaches in the Tampa Bay area, help it serve as a reminder of the walk we are on with God. Let that encourage us to turn back to the ancient ways and walk humbly with God.