Most of us rarely stop to think about the many places our feet take us on a daily basis. It’s even more rare for us to think about the footprints we leave behind. Depending on the terrain, there may or may not be evidence that we even walked a particular path.
On our spiritual journey, we leave footprints every day, and I wonder how many of us think about those footprints we have left behind. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives several definitions of the word footprint; I share two: “an impression of the foot on a surface” and “a marked effect, impression, or impact.” I will focus on the second definition—“a marked effect, impression, or impact.”
Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of marked effect, impression, or impact you are leaving on your daily walks? Were you kind with your words to others or were your words like a dagger? Did you provide assistance to someone who really needed help or did you try to avoid them?
Back on April 16 many of us followed the news story about the South Korean ferry that tragically capsized. Out of that tragedy came many stories. One that was reported in the news told about 22-year-old Park Ji-young, who was among the 426 people aboard. She was a worker in the cafeteria on the ferry. Instead of trying to save herself, she stayed behind to calm the frightened children and pass out life jackets. In the process of saving others, she did not keep a life jacket for herself.
Several accounts revealed that she told the passengers she would leave after all the passengers were safely off the ferry. It turns out that while saving others, she lost her life. Ji-young left a great impression on those whose lives she saved, their families, and many people around the world. She has no idea of the type of impact she made that caused many to consider her a heroine, but God does.
On that same South Korean ferry the reports also said that the captain and several of the crew members were among the first to flee, instead of carrying out their responsibility to help save the hundreds of passengers on board. The captain was charged with murder and several crew members were charged with abandonment. The impact that the captain and those crew members made is a painful memory for the surviving passengers, their families, the families of those who lost their lives, and countless others.
It is not difficult to figure out the type of impact left by the individuals in each of the stories. Each day, as Christians, we have the opportunity to have a marked effect, leave an impression, or impact someone’s life. Perhaps not to the degree of those involved in the ferry disaster, but we have the opportunity to influence others with our words and by our actions. The question is, How will the person whose life we touched be impacted by what we did?
Here are a few things for us to consider as we leave our footprints in this life:
The path on which footprints are created will not always be smooth.
We will connect with many people in life, and the connections we make will not always be pleasant. However, it is up to us to decide how we will respond in each situation. We can confidently make connections with others, knowing that God has promised to be with us. He says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness”—Isaiah 41:10.
The impact we make as we connect with people may not be readily known or seen, but we should always do our utmost to reflect the character of Christ.
Every day, we connect with people we already know and some we will meet for the first time. With each connection we should think about the impact we will have on pointing others to Christ. We are reminded in Matthew 5:16 to let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven.
We have the promise of a brighter day, as long as our footprints show a life lived in communion with and commitment to Jesus Christ.
The most important footprint was made by Jesus Christ when He traversed the earth after giving up the splendor of heaven. He knew His destiny. He knew that He would die so that all human beings on this earth would have the chance to live forever. He spent a short time on earth and left us with a commission to tell everyone we meet about Him, to show them compassion, to meet their needs, and show them a Christ-like character.
Jesus left us with the assurance that He would return for us when He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also”—John 14:1-3, NKJV.
In the meantime, every day we are presented with new opportunities to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Back in March, hundreds of youth and others from around the Atlantic Union traveled to Portland, Maine, to participate in a compassion rally and march. One of the stories shared from that experience was about a young woman who was drawn outside by the sounds of the young people while they were cleaning the area around her home. When she inquired who they were, she was told they were Seventh-day Adventists.
For the young lady, the presence of the young people was an answer to her prayer. It turns out that she had previously left the Adventist Church and was looking for “a sign to show her the way back home.” On that day and at that time the young people were the sign to show her the way home. Now she is reconnected to the Adventist Church. This group of young people had no idea the impact their presence in her neighborhood would make that day, but God did.
There are many opportunities for us to share the love of Jesus and touch someone’s life. As we reflect on the path we have taken, the marked effect we have had, and the impressions and impact we have made, two questions to consider are, “What kind of footprint am I leaving behind as I pursue my journey in this life?” and “Will those footprints lead someone to my heavenly home?”
Ednor A. P. Davison is the editor of the Atlantic Union Gleaner and assistant to the president for communication in the Atlantic Union Conference.