One night, a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with God. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to God.
He noticed that at some point the double set of footprints had stopped. Looking closer he realized that was the most difficult part of his life. This bothered the man greatly and he asked God about it.
Man: Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, you would leave me. The latter half of my life I’ve been walking alone.
God: Sorry, where did you say that the double track of steps stopped?
Man: Well, there, see. You simply stopped walking along with me. And that was the hardest part of my life. Not that it got any better afterwards.
God (bends over to look closer): Ah, yes, that spot. Well, nothing changed on my side. It was you.
Man: What? You mean I stopped walking with you?
God: No, but that’s where you finally grew up.
Man: Grew up? I almost died there and you abandoned me.
God: No, I did not abandon you. I did not walk with you in the first place. That second pair of footsteps is basically imaginary.
Man: You’re telling me that you didn’t walk with me?
God: Sort of. You were on your own and kept yourself alive with an imaginary crutch, me as the great carrier. Once things really got tough, you had the choice of continuing using that crutch or wising up and take responsibility. I’m so glad you did.
Man (takes time to let this sink in): So… it was in my toughest time when I suffered the deepest pain that you abandoned me?
God: Nope, I did not abandon you. You opened your eyes and realized it was up to you to either face your sufferings or succumb to them.
Man: That’s sick. Why are we having this conversation?
God: I don’t know. You started it and I’m always up for a good convo.
Man: So, you are not with people in their suffering at all?
God: I didn’t say that. I’m not a crutch and also not someone who shields you from suffering.
Man: Then what are you good for?
God: Good question.
Man: I might as well not believe in you anymore.
God: Sure, I can handle that too.
Man: What do you mean with “too”
God: Since your species became aware of me, I’ve been called many things and many things have been done to me or to others in my name. Not believing in me is very insignificant compared to all that.
Man: What use is a God who cannot be with people in their suffering?
God: Suffering? Don’t talk to me about suffering. Suffering is my middle name.
Man: But you just told me I’ve been walking along the beach alone!
God: I am the beach and I am the water that fills the footprints. I am the longing that makes a man persevere as he walks alone. I am the suffering he experiences and the pain he endures.
Man: So you are saying you are suffering?
God: Kinda. A bit yes and a bit no.
Man: If you know suffering so well why don’t you do something about it?
God: It must be endured. The meaning of suffering is in the endurance. Not that that makes suffering okay or good. The heart of my very being knows suffering intimately.
Man: If you know it so well, what, then, is the meaning of suffering?
God: That is a knowledge that can’t be expressed with words. Even I could not tell you and if I could, I wouldn’t. All I have is the gift of myself to suffer with you and all the others, women and men, children and adults, animals and plants, kings and servants, great and small. I suffer the world into being and I suffer it to completion.
Man: But you still didn’t answer my question.
God: That is correct.
Man (gathers his belongings): I’d best be on my way then.
Man: Why do you say “travels”?
God: Because I don’t want say “Safe travels” just like I won’t say “Godspeed.”
Man: But that’s what people always say.
God: I’m not people, though I am very human. I wish you well.
Man: Will we meet again?
God: Yes, I’m here, there, and everywhere. I’ll meet you in the water and the sand and I’ll meet you at the other end.