A Parable

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

A man is walking along the beach with an old friend. Suddenly he realizes two things: he’s dead, and the old friend is Jesus. And it isn’t just any beach: it’s his life. He can see his footprints from different times in his life — little baby footprints, adolescent footprints, adult footprints, old man footprints, all his.

But there’s another set beside his — even at times in his life when he was alone. He turns to Jesus and Jesus says: Yes, my child, those are my footprints. I was always walking beside you.

But he looks further ahead — at the time when his father died, when his best friend betrayed him, when he was out of work with five children to feed — and he’s troubled, because at these times, one set of footprints disappears. So he looks at Jesus again. Jesus says: My child — those are the times when I was carrying you.

The man is comforted. But then he looks further ahead, to his life’s moment of greatest crisis, the moment when he questioned everything, even his faith, even his sanity — and sees the footprints come to an abrupt halt; and instead there are two round indentations in the sand, side by side. He turns and looks at Jesus a third time.

And Jesus says, My child: that is where I dropped you on your ass.

I was going to try to write something uplifting, I really was. Well, I find this story uplifting. Best I got tonight. One hell1 of a Lent.

1 Or, I guess, Purgatory.

19 Comments on “A Parable”

  1. Annette says:

    Purgatory. Definitely, but maybe that’s some of what Lent is supposed to be? A sort of preliminary Purgatory?

  2. Sky says:

    Hmm. Not sure what I think about this. I suppose it’s uplifting in a way (at least, until we’re dropped on our asses), but I like to think that no one ends up in Purgatory – or hell – because God has sent them there. They go because it was their choice, their free choice to do so.

    I think it was one Ron Rolheiser who said that it’s those moments of despair when God can really show how high He can lift us, or what depths He can scoop us out of. Not to say that despair is a good thing, but God brings gifts out of suffering, no? And I think we’ve all been there, particularly those of us who are gay/have SSA. It’s a funny thing, despair. I wonder how much of it is sinful and how much I can’t help but sink into.

    …or am I misunderstanding the post?

  3. Annette says:

    I also like the saying, “I asked God, ‘How much do You love me?” He replied, “THIS much!” and stretched out Hos arms and died for me.”

    1. Ian says:

      “I asked God, ‘How much do You love me?” He replied, “THIS much!” and stretched out His arms and dropped me on my ass”

  4. Victor says:

    If by “uplifting”, you mean “making me laugh out loud at work so my coworkers think I am finally going crazy”, then yes, this story is indeed uplifting!

    In spite of everything, happy Passiontide!

  5. AMT says:

    “if this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!!”
    Hang in there–you’re in my prayers.

  6. Laura Vellenga says:

    and there’s also the poster making the facebook rounds that reads, in response to the man’s question, “sandpeople ride in single file so as to hide their numbers.” i would frame and hang such a poster.

    1. Heh — actually, that’s the one that made me remember this version.

  7. Dave says:

    Praying for you man. Keep on fighting.

  8. Christie says:

    I think that probably means it’s a good one. 🙂

  9. Tara S says:

    Or from The Crescat: “When you saw only one set of footsteps, that’s when I let the bear eat you.”

    St. Nicholas, whose intercession resurrected people who were hacked to teeny tiny bits, pray for us!

  10. Gabriel says:

    I prefer this to the original, which I have heard so many times I begin pulsing with suppressed annoyance as soon as I read the opening lines. Kudos.

  11. Ian says:

    I nearly thought you had come over all sentimental and middle-aged churchy womanish on us.

    I was very glad that you hadn’t.

    Hah! Dropped on my ass…

  12. Ron says:

    The moral of this parable: life’s a beach, and then you die.

    A blessed Holy Week to everyone!

  13. Caitykins says:

    Brilliant. Just brilliant.

  14. Richard says:

    Butt Prints In The Sand

    One night I had a wondrous dream,
    One set of footprints there was seen,
    The footprints of my precious Lord,
    But mine were not along the shore.

    But then some stranger prints appeared,
    And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
    Those prints are large and round and neat,
    “But Lord they are too big for feet.”

    “My child,” He said in somber tones,
    “For miles I carried you alone.
    I challenged you to walk in faith,
    But you refused and made me wait.”

    “You disobeyed, you would not grow,
    The walk of faith, you would not know.
    So I got tired, I got fed up,
    and there I dropped you on your butt.”

    “Because in life, there comes a time,
    when one must fight, and one must climb.
    When one must rise and take a stand,
    or leave their butt prints in the sand.”

    author unknown

  15. Annette says:

    I just got one of those smarmy keychains in the mail today. It had the “Foot Prints” on it, but I can’t read if without the ending of, ” I dropped you on your ass” and it sends me into giggles every time.

    Thanks (I think).

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