Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Devil Wears Size Six

Last Sunday I participated in an historical excursion through Sandwich Notch in Sandwich, New Hampshire. It was a marvelous day of exploring 19th century rural New Hampshire life. Local historians, naturalists, archeologists and scientists shared their knowledge; I was along to give some spiritual insight.

At one stop we viewed the “Devil’s Footprints.” These are indentions in the rock that look like the petrified footprints of someone who had walked across the landscape in the distant past.

But these are not human impressions left in the mud of ancient times. A geologist informed us that this is a natural phenomena caused by the erosion of the stone. It is purely accidental that they have the shape of footprints and are spaced at the distance of a person’s stride.

Nevertheless, the local custom is to place your foot in the indentions to see if the devil’s shoe fits. I am relieved to say it doesn’t. Good thing, I was scheduled to preach at Pulpit Rock at the next stop. People might have looked at me askance if the preacher had the devil’s shoe size.

One participant’s sneakers fit exactly into the indentions in the rock. I asked her what size she wore. “Women’s six,” she replied. “That would be a men’s eight,” she added. So I guess the devil is a woman… or a small man. But he/she/it has the stride of a much larger person. And by the depth of the impressions, the devil seems to be carrying quite a heavy load.

There is a poem by Mary Stevenson called “Footprints in the Sand” that people have often asked me to read at funerals.  It describes two sets of footprints  – the Lord’s and ours. The earliest version of this well-known poem (there are at least three!)  concludes:

"You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?" The Lord replied, "The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you."

I saw only one set of footprints in Sandwich Notch, and they are deep. It seems as if the Adversary also carries folks. The apostle Paul writes: "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Sometimes he gets more than a foothold in our lives. He might have added, “And don’t let the devil carry you.”

During difficult times it is easy to give in to strong emotions – to let anger, depression, bitterness or discouragement carry us along. At other times God’s grace seems to sustain us beyond our natural strength. In both cases, it may feel like we are just along for the ride.

And we are … it is just a matter of who is carrying us. At such times it is best to look down and check the shoe size. By the way … I have it on good authority that Jesus wore size 12.
Photo is one of the Devil’s Footprints in Sandwich Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Sandwich, NH. Photo by Jude Davis.

1 comment:

  1. This was very moving and a wonderful interpretation and inclusion of so many theological ideas. I like how they seem to so smoothly transition all based on the concept of leaning, or being carried. In literature we stand on the shoulders of giants, or carry a big stick or lean on one another. This is truly just another way of saying we are never alone.