"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Footprints on the Ceiling?

By Micky Wolf

Recently engaged in walking on the treadmill while pondering and listening to some great music, my gaze wandered around the basement surroundings. Near my right elbow, a couple pieces of used furniture awaiting a new family. Over to the left, a small mountain of neatly stacked boxes containing assorted and sundry “we-will-definitely-need at-some-point-stuff” [according to my beloved]. In another corner, a circular glass-top patio table with chairs, soon to be moved to the deck with anticipation of soaking up the bright, spring sunshine.

We have enjoyed our humble home for a number of years, grateful and clearly aware the manner in which we were led to this purchase was a God-incident in and of itself. In the process, we learned it had been designed to the specifications of the previous owners and built by Mennonite workers. The craftsmanship and materials are quality, understated, solid and enduring. 

The view—not all that exciting.  Or is it? For some reason on this day I was prompted to glance up. To the rafters up. Not that I had never done that before, except in this moment it was different—which all goes to prove we can look at the same thing numerous times before we see it clearly, or in its entirety. There above, a faint, maple color outline of two mostly complete sets of shoe prints. Wow, what an intriguing discovery!

Observing there were no written words or nearby subterranean hieroglyphics to explain their presence, I began to consider the possibilities. Envisioning what might have occurred, the most likely scenario may have been that the workers measured lengths of two by twelve boards, placing them on the ground near the evolving frame structure. Perhaps there had been heavy dew that morning, or it showered later in the day and one of the men, having walked across the damp, clay, soil did not notice where he took the next few steps, leaving his prints on the rafter now in plain sight over my head. 

The full story of the footprints remain a mystery, yet it seems they speak of something deeper—the reality that our lives are marked with a variety of impressions—some made upon us, some we deposit. 

There is a story behind every imprint we carry, physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. The incidents and circumstances associated with these impressions may occur in the depths of great suffering and pain. Others serve as reminders of joyous, uplifting events. 

Why then, amidst this very human activity of ‘leaving impressions’, is it so important we allow God to reveal their presence—in His time and plan? And what might these imprints be speaking to us?

God in all things.

Ignatius of Loyola lived an incredibly fully human life, even as he surrendered to the Lord’s transforming work in becoming one of history’s most ardent and impassioned Christ-followers. Subsequently, his mystical experiences became the set and substance for a wealth of wisdom and teaching that remains as viable for seekers today as it was when he recorded his insights in his journals, much of which became known as the Spiritual Exercises [meant to be experienced with a Spiritual Director]. Foundational to deepening one’s relationship with Jesus and the Trinity is his strongly held belief that God is truly, in all things. 

God is in the midst of it all and works through all things—people, events, circumstances—but do we actually see it that way? Often, not at the time imprints are set down in our hearts and spirits.

Dimension and depth.

The imprints we carry are as unique as our individual life experiences. While some prints may have certain similarities in common, each will be different given the infinite possibilities of people and the events and circumstances particular to our journey. 

As we open ourselves to the healing and authentic affirmation God desires to give us through the circumstances which instigated the imprints, we are well-advised to avoid the trap of comparison—within self, or with others. The dimensions and depth of the marks speak a story of our life, our experience and only God knows best how to work all of it to good. [Roman 8:28]

Placement and visibility.

The footprints on our basement rafters were only recently discovered. There could be a multitude of explanations why I did not see them until now. Maybe I’m not too observant. Maybe it would be better if I walked around looking up more often. Or maybe the bottom line is—now was the time for me to see what I was to see. 

Some of the imprints you carry are clearly visible, to others and to self. At the same time, it is very likely you are only vaguely aware of their presence. It is important to note that God’s idea of your readiness to bring them into the light may be very different than your own understanding, in which case it is helpful to remember He truly desires the best for you.

Taking time to be with God as He shows us the impressions we carry will certainly not be as simple as looking up and noticing footprints on the rafters. However, there are some steps we can take to help us begin or continue a process of healing.

1.  Acknowledge that through the circumstances and events of your life, you have
    been imprinted by the actions of other people.

2.  Prayerfully ask God to show you those impressions, in His time and plan.

3.  Ask God for the grace, strength, and courage to cooperate and “stay with”  
     Him as you discover their presence, their meaning, and any healing or 
     resolution that may be needed.

4.     If you realize some of these impressions are evidence of deep pain and 
      suffering—past or present—ask the Lord to help you open your heart to 
      receive the compassion, love, and mercy He longs to pour into your being.
5.   Notice any feelings or thoughts of anger, bitterness, or resentment that may have taken root.Commit to making a choice to let go of them, embracing the healing balm of God’s forgiveness and restoration.

6.  Prayerfully and humbly allow the Lord to search your heart with regard to those occasions you may have imprinted others.

7.    In the awareness that you have left marks, confess, repent and pray for those who bear the imprints of your actions and behaviors.

As you choose to persevere with God, it is helpful to remember the following: be patient with yourself, don’t get hung up on following a specific order of action steps, and realize you will likely need to repeat some of these actions numerous times. And lastly, take comfort in knowing God works in mysterious ways. He knows what is best for us, His ways are not our ways, His love is never-ending and He is always faithful. [Matthew 7:9]

What imprints might you be carrying in your heart? 
Your spirit? Your thoughts and emotions?

Are these impressions deep? Faintly visible? 

As you ponder these imprints, what do you feel? Think?

Can you give your imprints to God for His healing touch?

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