Did you ever read the stories about the Moffat Family by Eleanor Estes? I read them aloud when the girls were little. Every character in the family was lovable, but my favorite was Jane, The Middle Moffat. In the eponymous book, Jane decides that she is tired of being plain Jane, but since she is neither the oldest nor the youngest, she decides to be known as “The Middle Moffat”. When you are number three of nine (and the second girl), you understand what it means to feel like a nondescript member of the family, to hope that people will notice you, too.
One of the things that I loved about Jane is that she liked to look at things from a different vantage point. She would bend over and look at the world upside down from between her legs. Our Laura, who happens to be The Middle Neitz, used to do that, too! Often, I find that my take on a situation tends to be a little off-center from the people around me. I was reminded of that again on Ash Wednesday.
Each year, our parish gives out a little token as an aid in our Lenten preparation for Easter. One year, it was a wooden cross on a plain black cord. Another time, it was a little pebble. This year, it was a coin-sized disc with a line from “Footprints in the Sand“. You know it, don’t you? It’s about a dream where the author is walking on the beach with Jesus, reviewing her life. When times were tough, she only sees one set of footprint, so she asks Him where He was when she needed Him most. Jesus tells her that those hard times where when He carried her.
It is a moving story, but it does not ring true for me.
When I was being treated for cancer, I felt that God was walking with me each step of the way, helping me to pick up the cross and carry it every day. God was there in my family and friends, in the health care professionals, in my parish, in the youth group, in other breast cancer survivors. God’s presence was real and immediate for me the whole year. I felt held up by prayers, able to do things that sounded impossibly difficult. Sure, I was afraid sometimes and sad sometimes, but I never felt alone.
I think when things are going well, it’s easier to forget about God’s presence. In my dream, when I ask Jesus about the times when there is only one set of footprints, He tells me that those were the days that He carried me on His shoulders, celebrating with me as I whoop and holler in joy, or He is behind me, dancing.
This Lent, I will remember to look down, even upside down, to see that God still walks with us.