Oh let me see thy footmarks
and in them plant mine own;
my hope to follow duly
is in thy strength alone.
– ‘O Jesus, I have promised‘ – John Bode
To mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and to remember those who gave their lives we have seen bootprints appear across our country. Make sure you look out for them or you can even buy a sticker bootprint online in order to support the veterans.
It’s interesting that the image we most relate to as Christians is often depicted as a bare footprint not a booted one. Of course, Jesus would not have worn boots, but he would have worn sandals, so why a bare footprint?
There is the understanding that to walk barefoot is to be grounded, to connect with the earth and ultimately with God. I do like to walk around barefoot at home and in the garden and I am often told I will hurt myself or pick up some infection. Wearing shoes or boots is about protecting our feet. I definitely get my feet very dirty. Maybe that is what the image of a bare footprint depicting following Christ is about, being vulnerable and willing to get dirty as we walk the path of Christ. But is that not also what the booted footprint is about? Depicting those who have been willing to fight against destruction and for their country and have brought the freedom we enjoy today?
We do seem to have lost our battle image of Christianity today, the idea of the Christian life being about fighting evil and the need to rally the troops and be prepared for war. When is the last time you heard or sang ‘Onward Christian Soldiers?’
This is not necessarily a bad thing as lots of damage was done by Christianity in history through our crusades and domination of others. And in a world today of extreme religions it may not be helpful to be using fighting talk. Yet we do need to realise that following Christ does mean, like he did, challenging the injustices and things that are denying life in our world today.
We are in a battle with issues like poverty, racism, knife crime, homelessness, plastic pollution, loneliness, stress, inequality, disillusionment… the list is endless.
Maybe we need to have a boot on one foot and be barefoot on the other as we walk in this world and seek to touch God and others today. I like to depict my ministry as having one foot in the church and one in the real world and like the angel in Revelation 10:2 had one foot on the land and one in the sea (depicting God intervening in all places), we need to follow and be God’s presence and power in every place we find ourselves.
So, enjoy some barefoot time this month and feel the earth and God near, but also put on some heavy boots and let that remind you of the battles we still fight. May we know God’s protection and help as we continue our journey through this world.
The ‘footprints in the sand’ dream reminds us of God carrying us through difficult times in life, but a modern version of it goes on past the one set of footprints where God carries us, to a multitude of messy footprints all over the place. When asked what this meant, God said, “that’s when you walked with others and learned to carry each other”.