Becoming Strong by Following

Life offers us, if we’ll let it, many opportunities to become expert followers. . . Just so you know, I wrote this several years ago. It is not in response to any of the current leaders in my life, either at home, at church or in our government.

Psalm 77:19

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

The context of these verses is the incredible story of God’s leadership of his people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and into the Promised Land. As I began to picture the men and women of Israel standing on the banks of the Red Sea – roiling waters before them, raging enemy closing in behind them – I could only imagine that they were anxious and afraid, but also that they were angry with Moses for leading them to what was surely imminent death. Knowing my own nature and the tendency of most of us when we aren’t in charge but want to be, I can picture that the Israelites were disgruntled with Moses for what appeared to be botched leadership. And because they were effectively trapped between two dangers, unable to fix or change the situation themselves, they grumbled and complained. What else could they do?

Sometimes, like the Israelites, I cannot see God’s footprints at all. The only feet I see, other than my own, are the dirty, smelly, ugly feet of the regular human being in charge. It may be my husband’s feet, or an employer’s, a pastor’s or leader’s, or even the imagined feet of “them,” the government, the college, the system. These are the people who make decisions that I would certainly have made differently had I been in charge, the path I would have taken had my dirty, stinky, filthy feet led the way. I’m not bitter, but I do suspect I have issues with authority, especially when all I can see are the feet that seem to be misleading me up ahead. And I can’t see God’s footprints until much later when there is dancing on the far banks of the sea.

Here’s what I typically do in these situations: I look at the feet of the person in charge, and I notice how unclean and corrupt they are. Then, maybe, I’ll look at my own restless feet, feet that are tapping out a waiting-room fidget. Both perspectives frustrate the heck out of me and don’t really help matters.

But . . . hopefully . . . finally I look at Jesus’ feet.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Jesus was led by our dirty feet to a death on a cross that scarred his feet forever. He chose to experience a life and death that pressed on him inexorably and he complained only once that I can see, in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked to be relieved of his duties if there was any way around the tragically passive stance he was about to take towards his own life. These are the feet I cannot always see, but I know are always there. These are the feet that are spotless and clean and perfect. These are the feet worth following, even if it means swallowing my pride and following the human feet of someone whose feet are as unworthy as mine to lead.