Friday, May 23, 2014

Footprints or Tyre tracks?

Are you travelling slowly enough to leave footprints?
Earlier this week my wife Kate and I went for a fantastic walk together. About 50 yards from our front door, next to our allotment site, there's a path which leads to a large area of fields and woodland. 

Over the seasons we watch from our kitchen window and see the crops being planted, growing and then harvested

We love running various routes through and around these fields, and as a family we've hunted and found hidden geocaches. 

Last summer my daughter and I spent two hours one sunny Saturday afternoon foraging for elderberries and sloes.. we love this area of countryside on our doorstep, and on our walk around there this week Kate and I noticed the heavy hum of many bees noisily buzzing away at their daily business, magpies and other birds calling and flying. We also noticed and explored new paths, fresh growth on the trees and bushes, as well as enjoying some quality time together. All in all it was a great walk, and something we should do more often. 
"I've been wondering what trail I'm leaving in different parts of my life"
As it happened, the paths were hard after a dryish spell, so I didn't notice us leaving any footprints (although I did see some hoof marks from horses). Sometimes there are tyre tracks on these paths, and some evenings we can hear younger members of our community tearing around the fields on motorbikes. I doubt that these young chaps notice the bees humming, the birds calling or particularly enjoy quality time together - for them it's mainly about speed!

Reflecting on this difference, I've been wondering what trail I'm leaving in different parts of my life. Am I leaving footprints, travelling at an appropriate pace, or am I impatiently leaving tyre marks as I scramble my way to the next goal, the next rung on the ladder, the next achievement?

I should point out that there's nothing wrong per se with travelling quickly, but for this post at least I want to use the comparison between footprints and tyre tracks as a metaphor for whether we're living life with a deep sense of awareness and "noticing", or whether we're just desperate to get where we're going without enjoying the journey to get there. This is another angle on whether we're destination-focused or journey-focused, which I've touched on in a previous post.

Are you leaving tracks in your haste?
Over the years I've spent a fair bit of time in the mountains of North Wales, not least because until recently my brother lived there with his family. I've climbed Snowden (the highest mountain in Wales) numerous times, and by various different routes.
"Am I impatiently leaving tyre marks?"
Once I climbed it with a group of friends as part of a 3-peaks challenge. Another time two friends and I "accidentally" climbed up via the precarious Crib Goch route (not ideal for someone like me who's not a fan of big drops, and we were wearing cowboy hats as well).

In each case the climb itself has been an essential part of the whole experience, sharing companionship, encouragement and enjoyment with those others I'm climbing with - leaving footprints along the way, and having a shared satisfaction at reaching the trig station at the summit.

If you know Snowden, you'll know that there's also a steep rack and pinion train track which winds up the mountain from Llanberis, enabling you to enjoy the view in comfort as you ascend, and scale the summit with minimal footprints. For the record, I really have no problem with people who choose this as their means to ascend the mountain, and I know that for some people this is their only way up, through disability or illness. For me though, while I am able, it's a richer experience to leave footprints on the side of the mountain, especially when sharing it with others.

Perhaps what I'm getting at here is the difference between getting somewhere quickly all by yourself compared to getting somewhere together. Anyone who's ever looked after small children (even older children) will know that getting somewhere quickly together can be a hard task! Putting coats and shoes on reluctant toddlers can be like trying to fit an octopus in a string bag, let alone the subsequent pace of the journey with little and/or reluctant legs! But it's more important to be going somewhere together at a shared pace - much as we'd like, it wouldn't be right just to stride off to our destination and leave the kids miles behind to catch up!
"'s a richer experience to leave footprints on the side of the mountain, especially when sharing it with others"
As an aside, as we look back over our lives it can be easy to be hung up with the footprints we've left, perhaps our trail hasn't been entirely where we intended or wanted - through our own decisions or by life's circumstances. Wherever our trail has led us, it's our footsteps going forward that can begin to lead us in a new direction. We often underestimate how far we can go. As I plod to and from the station during the week, I often take encouragement from Rosie Swale-Pope (not literally I should add!). Rosie ran around the world, exhibiting amazing determination, guts and strength, and is a fantastic example of what you can achieve simply by placing one foot in front of another - I'd recommend her book "Just a little run around the world".

Are you allowing your steps to be guidied?
In terms of our footsteps going forward, I love the description of God in the book of Genesis as
someone who walks with us in the garden. We are not alone on our walk and have a God who can guide our next step.

As a family we are very excited at the moment because in a few days we are due to get a Guide Dog puppy to foster for a year or so. Guide Dogs are amazing companions for blind and partially sighted people, and often mean the difference between someone being afraid to step outside their own front door, and someone being able to confidently step across the threshold and walk to wherever they need to go.

How much more confidence and direction can we have when we allow God to guide our steps, to guide our path? Our vision for our lives is small in comparison with God's great design for us.
"It's more important to be going somewhere together at a shared pace"
Thanks as always for reading this post, and I've love to hear your thoughts. How grounded are the different areas of your life? Are you leaving casual and hasty tyre tracks, or connected and relational footprints? Perhaps there's areas of your life where you need to slow down to shared walking pace?

Here's to taking that next step!


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