Worried about the future, a woman stepped out of the campus library into the cold winter darkness. Decisions yet to be made pressed in upon her. Hungry and tired, she waited for the bus in the street lamp’s glare, wearily wondering where God had gone. She worried at the question as she worried at her frayed sleeve, plucking threads and watching the fabric unravel. Familiar tears prickled at the corners of her eyes. She clenched her teeth against the ache and shoved her hands in her pockets, roughly setting her thoughts and eyes to look for distant headlights.
That’s when she saw them, on the sidewalk, just at the edge between light and dark:
Large paw prints, like some gigantic creature only meant for the wilds had stepped through paint and then sprinted into the night.
She half-turned away. It was cold. Late. The tiny lights of a bus appeared in the distance. She imagined supper and bed, warmth and sleep.
Yet a little spark of adventure flickered to life in her heart, a little less weariness weighed down her limbs.
She hardly noticed stepping out from the certainty of the stop, questions stilled by curiosity.
She followed up and around, down and back, street lamps lighting her way, one moment certain she had lost the trail only to find it again further up and further in, until the paw prints finally stopped.
And she stopped, breathing deep from the chase, hope of a deeper magic rising in her heart.
At the end of the trail, scrawled joyfully on the pavement, were two shimmering words from her childhood, catching her up in the story, breaking past all her doubts, filling the ache, until her heart spilled over in laughter and tears and laughter again:
Today I am grateful…
That Christ is risen indeed!
For C.S. Lewis, whom I remember today, and how the Narnia stories still speak to me of The Story, and that children are still reading them.
For the paw prints of God’s guidance: I may not know where following them will take me, but I know Who waits at the end.
For the story kernel, based on Deborah Smith Douglas’ mention of actually finding paw prints on Duke University’s campus and following them to the joyful words. She writes: “I simply, with all my heart, recognized the transforming truth of the affirmation. Aslan is alive. Resurrection happens. Christ is risen. In a single leap, Aslan had bounded past the watchful dragons of my mind and all the intervening years to return…Because my whole childhood rose up to greet the Lion, my tenuously sophisticated young-adult self had no defenses against the saving “allelujah!” truth of that moment.” (Weavings, Jan/Feb 1997, 21)
For my young friend, Jack, who has read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on his own for the first time.
And for this morning, like going through the Wardrobe, I look out on a snowy world,
and the feathered friends who eat breakfast with me: