Footsteps in the Snow

Snow: it’s one of my favorite things!  Looking out my hotel window, I’m enjoying the beauty of a snow shower covering the ground in a thick, downy blanket.  As I watched, a man exited the hotel and walked to his car — slowly, carefully.  He took a bag from his car, turned, and reentered the hotel, leaving behind a line of tracks.  Looking down at his footprints in the snow, I recalled another snow storm years ago…

We lived in the Texas Panhandle, where snow blew in several times each winter — with the emphasis on “blew”!  (It’s a bit disconcerting to see snow fall sideways!)  One night a fairly big snow storm came through, dumping about eight inches of the beautiful white stuff.  I arose early, fixed a cup of hot cocoa, and sat down by my sliding glass doors.  Quiet solitude (blow).  Serene peace (sip).  Amazing God (mmmm).  Suddenly the phone broke the silence.

The caller was a harbinger of bad news.  The brother of one of my dear friends had died.  His death was a shock; he was only 53. I knew his sister, a Christian of strong faith, would be hurting.  Since she lived down the street from me, I donned my coat, hat, boots, and gloves and headed out.  Even in the sadness, the sight of the pristine snow was both breathtaking and inspiring. 

The snow was coming down quite heavily.  The neighborhood children had not yet emerged from their warm homes for snowball fights and snowman building, so the blanket of snow remained unwrinkled.  It was absolutely beautiful — a scene suited for a Christmas card!  When I got to the street, I saw a set of footprints in the snow.  Someone had passed this way only moments earlier.  I decided to walk in their tracks to keep from disturbing the snow any further. 

I finally arrived at the home of my friend and found her, of course, quite disturbed by her brother’s sudden death.  She had many questions for God and we raised them honestly to Him.  We talked, cried, and prayed.   When I knew it was time to leave, I began putting back on my winter garb.

“Why don’t you let me drive you home?” my friend asked.

“Oh, no!  I love to walk in the snow.  It’s one of my favorite things.  It’s so quiet and serene.  And, so far, the snow is undisturbed and pristine.  I love that!”

“But it’s pretty deep snow.  Isn’t it a bit hard to walk in?”

“Not really.  I saw a set of footprints in the snow, so I just walked in the steps of someone who had gone before me.  It was eas–”

I turned around quickly and looked at my friend. We stared at each other for a moment as a tear welled up in her eye.  We smiled at each other and I turned to leave. No words were necessary.  We knew what each heart was thinking and we left it there, one heart speaking to another.

What did we know?  That no situation in life exists where Someone hasn’t gone before us, marking out a path for us to follow.  Jesus knew the pain of losing a loved one.  Joseph, His earthly father, died while Jesus dwelt in flesh.  And even though Jesus knew He’d see His earthly father again, I’m sure His flesh hurt and His heart broke as He watched His mother grieve. 

My friend knew Who to go to for strength and compassion.  It was Jesus, the Great Shepherd who goes out before His sheep and marks out the way for them.  Jesus understood.  He knew her name and He knew her pain.  He would comfort her.  He would strengthen her.  He would give her peace.  All she needed to do was to walk in the footsteps of the One who had gone before.  And she did.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;

he rises to show you compassion…

How gracious he will be when you cry for help!

As soon as he hears, he will answer you…

Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:18-21