My good friend Pete has posted on his blog today that I’ve won the parable competition that he and Paraclete Publishing ran over the past couple of months. It’s a real honour to have been chosen among so many great entries.
As Pete and I are friends, I did just want to point out that I submitted the piece under a pseudonym, and it was only having read it and researched the false name I’d given that Pete became suspicious and asked if it was actually me… I couldn’t lie! The idea for the piece came, as so often with me, as I was pacing the streets in our part of South East London, having dropped the kids off somewhere. I simply got home, wrote it down and sent it away.
Anyway, thanks Pete.
Here’s the parable:
There was once a man who had lived a long and difficult life. When he finally lay down, a faint smile bent the lines in his face as his eyes were shut. He had run the race; now he could rest. The curtain was pulled back, and he stumbled through the light to meet God.
‘My Master and my Friend,’ the old man hailed God as he prostrated himself before God’s feet. Hearing no reply, the man looked up and saw God shuffling awkwardly in his chair, not quite managing to fight back a blush across his cheeks.
Not wanting his moment of judgement and welcome to be spoiled, the old man gathered his courage and spoke up. ‘My Lord and my God,’ he began, nervously. ‘Is this not the time when my life and works shall be weighed in your scales and my named checked against those who have made it into the Book of Life?’ After such a tiring day it was difficult for him to remember the exact details of what was meant to be happening, but he felt certain that it should be God who should be taking the lead.
‘My child,’ said God sadly, before petering out and looking around for some way out.
Following God’s gaze, the old man took in a crumpled photo, pinned to a crowded notice board hung askew in a dark corner. His heart leapt. ‘Father,’ he said, getting up carefully like a servant in Medieval court, ‘here is a photo of footprints on a beach…’
God took it and stared at it for a while and as the man perceived his eyes glistening, his own tears came, for he knew the photo, and knew the words of comfort that came with it. ‘Tell me, Lord,’ he said, knowing already the lines that would come, ‘tell me what the footprints mean.’
And so God began.
‘Your life has been like a walk along the beach with me, many scenes from your life flashing across the sky. In each scene there are footprints in the sand, sometimes two sets, at other times only one.’
At this point God paused, and looked down, and so the old man seized the initiative, and played too his part.
‘Lord, this bothers me because I notice that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I can see only one set of footprints.’
He looked up, but saw God unmoved, so continued. ‘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?’
He bowed his head, holding back the tears, ready for the words of succour that he knew must come.
And slowly God replied, his voice shaking with emotion. ‘The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when you carried me.’
The man frowned for a moment, paused, and then looked up. ‘Surely Lord,’ he began rather embarrassed to be correcting the Almighty, ‘you mean when you carried me.’
‘My dear child,’ God said, twisting a loose thread of cloth from his flowing robes, his face suddenly a mirror in which the old man saw the battles he had fought and the doubts he had put asunder, ‘this was the measure of your faith: when difficulties came, you gathered up this tired and arthritic God, and carried your beliefs to safety.’
A small wind blew through the old photographs and worn papers, and the two men sat in silence for a moment.
‘I have prepared a room for you,’ God said after a while, ‘though I quite understand if you don’t want me to stay.’
[© KB 2009]
Please do feel totally free to use it, but if you do so please do be courteous enough to reference it. Thanks.