The sun had just begun its climb over the hills of Germany’s Black Forest. It was slightly before six in the morning, and the sound of my alarm was commanding me to get out of bed. Outside it was cold. Under my covers it was warm. My mind was quickly creating a collection of reasons to go back to sleep. But I was in the middle of training for a marathon and knew if I had any chance of getting in the needed miles, it would have to be done early in the morning. Ever so slowly I began to crawl out of bed and walk a couple of blocks toward the start of my running trail.
Too busy rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I scarcely took in my surroundings as I walked to the trail. This particular run was not meant to be anything special. It was no different than so many other miles I had previously traveled. Nothing special. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing exciting planned. However, it turned into a run I will never forget.
Shortly after I began my run, I realized the previous night had left behind a fresh powder of snow. After recognizing this, I began to gaze at the amazing beauty surrounding me. Trees were frosted with icicles. The blanket of snow on the path looked smooth and peaceful. In that moment, I began to worship God as I enjoyed his creation. His heavenly storehouses laden with snow had delicately and beautifully decorated the forest.
This particular run called for me to run four miles in one direction, turn around, and come back on the same path. Shortly after finishing the first four miles, I was struck with an amazing realization: I was the first person to travel that particular trail for the day. How could I tell? My footprints. There was only one set of footprints in the snow, mine. It was a pretty interesting thought to know I was leaving the first set of footprints on the trail. I soon began to think through a series of questions: would those who come after me be able to tell what kind of shoe I was wearing based upon the footprint? Would those who come after me be able to tell I was running? If so, would they be impressed and think I was running fast, or would they think I was running slow?
Then, I truly believe the Holy Spirit pounded my heart with deeper questions. In my life, what kind of footprint am I leaving behind? What kind of impression am I leaving behind? What can people tell about the way I lived, or the condition of my heart, based upon the footprints I leave behind? With each step I took, more questions poured from my heart. Are the footprints I am leaving pointing people to Christ and making a difference in this world for his kingdom? What story do my footprints tell?
In the months following that run, those questions would not leave my heart. It was something that pounded my heart and kept me awake at night. At times, I was confident my footprints were worth following. Conversely as other images came forth, I was hoping they would get washed away immediately, a footprint nobody would follow. That particular run will never be forgotten. It was supposed to be normal. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing special. Yet it became a run and a moment I will never forget.
The Bible is filled with individuals who have left their own footprints. Some of these are mentioned by name and continue to serve as great examples to follow. Solomon left a footprint articulating great wisdom. Paul’s footprint speaks loudly about his boldness in preaching. Esther is the owner of a footprint of strength and integrity. In addition to the Biblical characters mentioned by name, there are many who commonly go unnoticed and perhaps get forgotten among the giants of the faith. When looking for an example of someone who lived by faith, Abraham is a popular choice. Compared to Abraham, how many sermons do you hear about the faith of the paralytic’s friends?
Within the pages of this book, I want to explore with you the lives of some amazing people who have left footprints for us to follow. They come from different backgrounds. They are remembered for different things. Some needed physical healing; others needed spiritual healing. There are those who fell at the feet of Jesus with broken bodies. And there are those who fell at his feet with broken hearts and broken lives. Some leave changed, and others leave exactly how they came. The one thing they have in common? Their specific names are never mentioned in the Bible.
I am anxiously looking forward to meeting some of these people in heaven. Can you imagine walking up to, as we call her, “the woman at the well” and ask, “What did it feel like when Jesus looked in your eyes and all you saw was love?” Or to ask the servants at the wedding, “Did you imagine an unknown carpenter could turn water into wine?”
Despite their names never being mentioned, they offer priceless treasures for us. In their day they were seen as insignificant. There was nothing special about them. Some of their stories are viewed as inconsequential compared to neighboring passages. However, the Holy Spirit viewed them differently. The Holy Spirit saw fit to include their stories for eternity within the pages of the Bible. Their footprints will inspire us to be more faithful, more encouraging, more grateful, better friends, better leaders, better givers and more.
As you read through the book, I encourage you to read the portion of scripture mentioned at the start of each chapter. Doing so will provide you with a fresh look at each chapter’s character. My prayer is that through their lives you will be changed. As we view their lives, may our lives continually be changed more into the image of Jesus Christ. Together, let us retrace the footprints of the unnamed.