footprints in the sand


Image for post
Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

It’s a whole new year! I find that exciting. A fresh start. A clean slate. But is it really? I can’t simply erase everything that has come before.

I bought a new pen a few months ago to go with a new journal. I discovered shortly after that it has an eraser. I remember when the first ink erasers hit the market. They didn’t erase so much as rub through the paper leaving a hole where the mistake had been. I wasn’t optimistic, until I used it. This thing really works! It erased the ink and left the paper intact.

But I noticed one small detail. The impression made on the paper by the word previously written remained. I wrote over the impression easily and legibly, yet the impression remained.

This is an accurate metaphor for my life. Many things have happened. Many choices have been made. ALL have made an impact on me. They informed the makeup of my brain and my whole person. I have done much for which I have repented. I have forgiven much perpetrated against me. That was then, this is now. It’s all done. Over with. In the past. I let it go.

And yet, the impressions remain.

And? Who cares? Write a new word and move on. No big deal. Agreed, as long as I learned from my grammatical error or spelling mistake. Next time I will catch myself, remember what I learned, and make a different word choice. But if I continue to make the same mistake over and over again, I no longer leave an impression behind. I leave a rut. A rut that traps me. A rut that traps those who come behind me.

Before you assume I have become a bit too existential in my metaphor and peace out, consider the see/seen debate.

The use of the words see/seen are constantly misused. We are not to say I see, but instead I have seen. However, I hear this misuse constantly. When I ask why they say it that way, without fail the answer is “that’s how my mom/dad said it.” And there lies the rut.

As I examine myself I see an alarming number of ruts. Some I have created. But to be completely honest, most have been created by others. People of influence in my upbringing. They created the ruts from the impressions left on them by their influencers, and so on, and so on, reaching back countless generations.

There is such a thing as a good rut. It’s called a trench, and it saved thousands of lives during WW1. A trench is a place of safety. It’s where you can go to regroup and rearm. It’s where you can go to rest and gather your strength for the next battle. It is dug with access points in order to safely enter and exit. It was dug with intention for exactly those purposes.

A generational trench may be compared to a family’s traits. One family may be talented musically, an impression repeated from generation to generation which yields even more musical talent in the generations to come. One family may be talented athletically. Another academically. Another may have any number of combinations of talents and gifts. These are wonderful trenches that serve their occupants well. I enjoy the presence of just those type of trenches left for me by those who have gone before.

But those ruts. They are a problem. They exist as a result of individuals repeating mistakes rather than intentionally analyzing the mistake, correcting it, and leaving an impression for a trench instead of an impression for a rut.

Those ruts get tripped over time and time again. We fall and hurt ourselves. We unintentionally leave them for others to fall into and get hurt. I’ve created ruts and my kids have fallen into them and gotten hurt as a result. My grandparents created ruts that my parents unwittingly dug deeper and my generation has fallen into them and gotten hurt. I choose differently. I choose self examination. I choose better self-awareness. I choose to fill in the ruts and dig a new trench that serves those tied to me for generations to come.

The first step is admitting the rut. It’s there. You don’t ever remember a time when it hasn’t been there. Your parents fell into this rut. You fall into this rut. You are watching as the next generation falls into this rut. Everyone keeps getting hurt.

The second step is to decide that this rut needs filling in. This involves calling out those things that created the rut. Things like arrogance. Right-fighting. Lies. Abuse of all kinds that continue to be covered up. The code of silence about the things we aren’t allowed to talk about.

The third step is to leave a new impression that over time becomes a trench. This involves changing sometimes generations-long patterns of behaviour and communication. This is hard. This takes a long time. This takes intention. You may find yourself defending the new impressions you are trying to make. You will get push-back from those who don’t want the hard stuff to be exposed.

You will also find individuals who have been stuck in this same rut climb out along side you. They will be your encouragers and supporters. They will see the bigger picture past the hard and the hurt and the embarrassing truths and embrace your vision for the generations to come. They will help you dig the new trench. A trench of truth. Forgiveness. Healing. Grace. Mercy. Kindness. Compassion. And above all, Love. Love for everyone, not just those that look like, act like, and identify like you.

Need to fill in a rut? Need to dig a new trench? Shoot me a message. Let’s dig in together.

Join the discussion