Check for Prints
Updated: Jan 19
When I was young, our house was burgled. A few times, as it happens. One particular occasion stuck in my mind. It must have made quite an impression on me, as I have a terrible memory of my childhood (as in I struggle to recollect much of it, not that it was terrible!)
We’d had an extension built with some patio doors that led out to the rear of the property. Returning home one time, the patio doors were open. As if the evidence weren’t clear enough, several items from the house were also missing.
You can tell it’s in a time gone by, as shortly after it had been reported to the Police, they attended to take statements. A little after the Officers had arrived there was another knock at the door and SOCO (Scenes of Crimes Officers) had arrived.
Without even remotely resembling the Hollywood-ised crime scene investigator, the SOCO retrieved a tub of powder and little brush from what looked like a toolbox and began to apply it to the handle and frame of the doors.
As a young child, I was fascinated. I had no idea what he was doing, so I asked him. “Checking for prints”, he informed me. He explained to my inquisitive mind how sometimes burglars left fingerprints on the point of entry. These fingerprints, he told me, couldn’talways be seen easily, so the dust helped him to see them. Fingerprints, he went on to say, were evidence of a person’s presence there.
For reasons I can’t explain, this childhood experience recently came randomly to my recollection and got me thinking.
We’re approaching two years of national upheaval following the outbreak of COVID-19. For many who I speak to, it’s felt like a long, hard slog. Some are sad. Others weary. Still others feel to be at their wits’ end, exasperated by the scale and length of the rupture to normal life. It’s not melodramatic to say that some people feel to be in a state of shock, bordering on traumatised by the events of the preceding twenty-four months. Survival – at least emotionally - seems to have been an achievement for many.
I wonder, though, if ‘survival mode’ could have skewed our view. I suspect that there are Divine fingerprints on our lives and circumstances that are not easily visible, but that we could see and celebrate with some careful, maybe forensic, examination.
Have you known God’s hand guiding, sustaining and providing for you? Can you see now, looking back, how He has been with you to comfort and to uphold you?
A timely verse from Scripture, a perfectly-timed phone call from another believer to cheer you up, a fortuitous, mask-affected bumping into someone from church in an unexpected place serving as a reminder you’re not alone, you’re not abandoned. These and a thousand other ways are the fingerprints of a loving Father who knows what we’re facing, and knows what we need. Did you see it for what it was at the time? Can you see it when you look back?
Flip the script a moment and consider this: Every moment of isolation and irritation served as instruments in God’s hands to teach you, to grow you, to show you yourself. Every longing for community with other believers served to undermine the presumption of community we’d embraced. Every tear cried on account of the suffering of loved ones in the church served to grow loving affection and concern for them. Every prompting to take the initiative and reach out grew your sensitivity to the prompting of the Spirit. Did you see it for what it was? As you look back, can you see how the long winter of COVID-19 has been a time of growth and refining?
God has been with us in the ‘fire and flood’, just like He promised his people (Isaiah 43:1-3).
You may have come across a piece of work entitled ‘Footprints’ (click here if not). The premise is that a person takes a moment to reflect on life and recalls all the terrible, painful circumstances they’ve encountered. As they look more closely, they see that during the good times, when things were just as they’d hoped, there were two sets of footprints walking along a sandy beach; their own and those of Jesus. Curiously, however, when times were hard, there was just one. Their logical conclusion? That in those times, the Lord had abandoned them, left them to it and met them on the other side. That walking together resumed when things were back to normal.
The beach walker makes this complaint to God, accusing him of leaving them when they needed him the most, to which he explains that there is only one set of prints during the stormy seasons because it was at that time that He carried them.
As a written piece it’s a bit twee (sorry if that offends) but it raises a point. See, my concern is that we unwittingly adopt the ‘Footprints’ mindset. That we look at the tough times we face, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness we experience, and conclude that God was distracted or otherwise preoccupied with other things, leaving us alone at those times. We fear and feel deep-down that the ever-present, dependable One had an off day, or ceased to care for us enough to be present with us for a time. Friend, this is absolutely not the case! He promised He would neither leave nor abandon us, and He’s as good as his Word! Not only does stay with us in the difficult seasons, but he carries us when we don’t have the strength to stand. Even more incredible is the fact that we’re not just surviving those times – no matter how much it feels like it - but He’s at work in us and through us during those times.
With that in mind, can I invite you to take a moment to consider the ways in which God has been at work? What evidence do you see?
Maybe it’s genuinely still hard to see anything, so why not invite someone into the conversation and ask them the ways they’ve seen God at work in you and through you; ways they’ve observed God’s kindness to you throughout the last couple of years. Maybe you could return the favour. If, like my childhood SOCO, we will gently dust for prints, I’m sure we’ll be surprised at what we see – the evidence of God’s good presence and ministry to us. Maybe these findings will form the case for giving thanks to God for His faithfulness to us, and use of any and all circumstances to make us more like His beloved Son.