Footprints In the Snow

 

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW
 
By Larry d. Wright
 
 
          The snow crunched beneath my tires as I turned through the cemetery gate. It was obvious that I was the first visitor today. As I stopped beside a new grave the flowers placed there only yesterday looked time-worn as they lay pressed beneath the snow. It was too early for the grave to have a marker, but I knew. Everyone knew. Her name was Suzy.
   
          She entered my life that August at a most critical time in hers. She was a vibrant 19-year-old University of North Alabama student, a popular cheerleader with everything going for her. She was bigger than life.
   
          All of that changed one fateful day as she sat in the doctor’s office. As he began to share the diagnosis, her first reaction was relief for she was convinced that she had mononucleosis. At least all the symptoms seemed to point in that direction.
    
          However, her relief soon gave way to shock. The words she heard the doctor speak seemed impossible! “All tests indicate you have cancer,” he reluctantly reported. Impossible? No, it was true. In fact, it was a rare form of cancer akin to leukemia but much worse.
  
          A developing life-threatening tumor required immediate attention. It had already released a vicious attack upon her body. Time was not on Suzy’s side. Many difficult decisions had to be made in a short time. What about possible treatments? Was surgery an option? Would chemotherapy be necessary? There were so many confusing questions but so few clear answers.
 
      As you can imagine, her life became very complicated. How could all this be happening? After all, Suzy was a Christian. Didn’t that count for something?
  
          Suzy’s new world happened on another campus....hospitals, doctors, pain, lots of pain....and questions. What about her future? Would there be one? The specialists were very candidate in sharing that her prognosis was not very promising. The prescribed treatment at the University Hospital in Birmingham was both radical and experimental. There was no one to talk to about what to expect for no one had survived the ordeal. It was the treatment, not the disease that had killed them.
    
 
 
a nominal Christian
faces a critical crises involving life and.....death.
 
Many spiritual decisions demanded the attention of this young coed. Suzy had committed her life to Christ as a young girl but that experience seemed several light years away from the realities of this crises. Presently she was a nominal Christian who had yielded to the bidding pressures of youth. Such matters as “God...death...eternity...Lordship”, were all things for someone else to be serious about. On that fateful day in the doctors office all of that changed. A new set of circumstances required a new perspective. What was relevant in Suzy’s life was now out of her control.
 
          For the first time in her young life she became serious, deadly serious, about the claims of the lordship of Jesus Christ. The result was an exciting journey that affected the lives of a great number of people.
 
          Understandably, a major concern of Suzy was God’s miraculous power. Namely, was healing a possibility? Did God still do that sort of thing? All of those preachers on television had a way of making it look so cheap. It was almost like wrestling, a little too hard to believe. Yet, it was obvious that her only hope was divine intervention. She pursued that with all the energy and enthusiasm with which she had sought everything else in her life. In the process of that search, she discovered many things about herself that had been previously ignored. On one occasion she shared with a congregation, “I discovered that I had things in my heart that were a lot worse than the cancer in my body.”
 
.....a new Suzy emerged
more beautiful than before for she was under new ownership......
          As the transformation continued, a new Suzy emerged in the same way that a caterpillar experiences metamorphosis. Suzy was more beautiful than a butterfly for she was under new ownership. Oh, she still had hurts, fears, unanswered questions, and, yes, even pain. Still, she had crossed an exciting threshold. The Bible became the “Word of God” as He spoke words of comfort, encouragement, and direction. Basking in His presence was expensive, but worth it!
  
          God was now in control and whatever happened, He could be trusted. Suzy’s attitude became that of the three Hebrew children who faced the trial of a fiery furnace. The furnace that Suzy faced was the cancerous cells coursing through her bloodstream. She identified with their words, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace....but if not....” (Daniel 3:17-18). It was the, “...but if not...”, that was scary.
 
          The faithfulness of the Hebrews resulted in the Fourth Man walking with them in the fire and eventually they experienced deliverance. Suzy experienced the companionship of the Fourth Man in the fire but could deliverance be in her future as well? Hope said, “Yes!.” Reality replied, “I’m not so sure.” If divine healing did not occur then the other possibility was real, always threatening and ever-present. Regardless of what happened, the outcome was in God’s hands. That much she knew for sure.  
 
          The difficult days were not without brief periods of refreshing reward. The Lord opened many doors for Suzy to share what God was doing in her life. The message she shared centered around the goodness and grace of God and focused upon the celebration of life. “Don’t wait until you get sick to learn what life is all about,” she told one youth group. On another occasion she shocked her listeners when she said, “The doctors consider me terminal. Actually, we’re all terminal. We just don’t know when. So we should never wait to get in on the life He has to offer.”
     
          Ironically, her greatest fear was not of death. She feared that in dying the young people with whom she had shared might faith in God’s goodness. She talked with me often about this natural apprehension.
 
          In the midst of all the uncertainties, God’s presence and power was so real. Imagine our elation when the tumor, once such an ominous threat, was gone! The cancer had gone into remission which was great reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, the celebration did not last long for when the cancer reoccurred it was more aggressive than ever.
  
          As the Christian community bound together in prayer, Suzy continued to walk through every door the Lord opened for her. She was determined to share about His sustaining grace. It was never easy for Suzy experienced a lot of physical pain. Emotionally, she was torn between the world of life and death. Her mind became a battlefield where the forces of light and darkness collided. It was a battle that definitely involved her and many of us as well.
    
                                                             
“The difficult thing about divine healing is that it is rarely logical.”
          Personally, I had no doubt in the Lord’s ability and willingness to heal. I believed in His Word which portrayed Him as the Great Physician. Also, I had seen the Lord heal and Suzy was such a wonderful candidate. She had repented of past failures. She had openly and honestly recommitted her life to the Lord. All the necessary ingredients were present. Everything seemed so right. Yet, divine healing is rarely logical. God is sovereign. Often He chooses to heal and forthrightly displays His power. At other times He chooses not to heal. The why is never humanly understood. We may question, accuse, even blame. The outcome remains the same.
    
          On Saturday, February 9, 1985, Suzy was healed. Perfectly. She went to be with Jesus.
    
          As I stood in the snow-covered cemetery, a video played on the screen of my mind a review of the last six months. Loosing track of all time, I don’t recall how long I was there. My body began to shiver as it called me back to the cold world of reality. There would be other days to reminisce, so I walked briskly to my car.
    
          As I entered the warmth and shelter it offered, I peeked through a frosty window glancing in the direction I came. An intruding thought entered my mind catching me by surprise. It wasn’t audible, in fact, it was much louder than that. It was as though a voice spoke to me. It said, Look! You only left footprints in the snow. Suzy left her life.  The intimidation of that moment was more painful than the cold. I felt so empty and defeated. I experienced an aching that went deeper than anything I had ever known. A part of me sensed that I had failed Suzy and she had been the one to pay. For the first time in my life I felt guilty for being alive.    
   
         Everything seemed so final. So cold. So...over. My conditioned mind mumbled, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. My heart cried, But Suzy is dead! I couldn’t believe it was true. I cranked my car and drove away, retreating to a safer world where unanswered questions about death and annoying voices leave you alone. I drove home.
     
                                               
“For the first time in my life I felt guilty for being alive.”
          Now that I have a better understanding and a more luminous perspective of those difficult days, I am convinced that the intruding thought I experienced at the grave was right about one thing. Only one. I did leave footprints in the snow. Suzy left infinitely more than that. Her outstanding courage made a deposit of faith in many lives, including mine. One young person told me, “Because of Suzy I am a different person. Her courage in the face of death has given me strength in the demands of living. For the first time my life has meaning and purpose.”
     
          It has been several years since Suzy’s death. The pain of missing her still persists, but time and God’s marvelous grace continue to bring healing. I still visit her grave. I don’t hear condemning voices any more. Rather, I am reminded of the purpose of her life in a special way. Her epitaph reads: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phillipians 1:21).   
                                                                                                       
 
 ARTICLE HISTORY:
 
This article “Footprints
In The Snow” was first
written in 1985. It has been revised several times and was first
published in Homelife
Magazine in January 1991 under the title “More Than Footprints”. It has been published in local journals and printed several times in brochure and pamphlet form.
 
 
              MEET SUZY......
 
The obituary of the Times Daily, February 10, 1985, announced the death of Susan Michelle Eckles. Yet, her many friends will tell you in a moment that she is still very much alive in many ways. Her sparkling personality, vivacious spirit, zest for life and desire for all people to experience the joy of knowing Jesus as she did, will be alive as long as their is memory.
 
This pastor’s account is the incredible story of the triumphant faith of an amazing University of North Alabama cheerleader. When the pain on the inside hurts more than the cold on the outside, remember...they are just “Footprints In The Snow”.
 
 
U/ldw: Footprints     ã Larry D. Wright
 
 
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