Now that we are back in West Michigan, we need to make many cultural adjustments, including to our personal piety. Out in California, expressing one's faith meant putting on a Hawaiian shirt, driving the SUV to the megachurch, and raising one's hands in praise to the amplified beat of the praise band.* Life was good, we had God to thank for it, and Jesus was our super-cool friend, kind of like a surfing buddy. But back in Michigan, we have to remember the truth: faith is about suffering.
No, actually, all of this is a caricature. California isn't all surfing and praise, and neither is Michigan all deprivation and depravity. In fact, we've been thrilled to be back at our old church, singing in harmony with our full-voiced congregation and enjoying the communion of the saints with old friends and family. God is good here, too. Overwhelmingly good.
Anyway, there's still enough truth in the following send-up of the old "Footprints in the Sand" poem to make it funny. Thanks to Marilyn Rottman of the Calvin Seminars in Christian Scholarship office for passing this along to me.
Footprints In The Snow
One night I had a dream.
I dreamed I was walking along the snow-covered beach of Lake Michigan.
As I looked back at the trail my feet left in the snow,
I saw my life clearly marked along my trek.
At all the high points of my life - when I made the church consistory,
when I completed my Precious Moments collection,
when my son chose Calvin over Dordt -
I noticed there was but one set of footprints dotting the frozen landscape.
But, at the low points - when our church had a series of seminarians for
seven months because no one would accept a call to Hudsonville,
when Zondervan’s sold out of my favorite Sandi Patti tape,
when my car broke down on Sunday in Holland, Michigan -
There were two sets of heavy footprints, marring the pristine flakes of the trail.
Puzzled, I cried to the Lord -
“Lord! Why this inconsistency?”
Suddenly, a cloud above the Grand Haven beach parted,
and John Calvin appeared in a single shaft of light.
“My child,” he said, “God sent me as your guardian theologian, to guide you
along life’s rugged pathways. When the burdens of the world plagued you,
when life’s heavy burden was almost too much to bear,
I was there beside you, holding your hand,
and whispering catechism quotations in your ear.
But, when you seemed to be enjoying yourself,
when happiness was the emotion in your soul,
it was then that I jumped on your back and made you feel guilty for having a
Remember, my precious worm,
fun is not an option for you.”
I awoke in a cold sweat, glad to know Truth.
Published in the April 8, 1991 edition of The Banter
*Yes, the ambiguous grammatical order of this sentence is intentional.