''It's behind you!!''

Interesting Tread Marks (Make Tracks!)

Here in China it is quite common for families to go out in the early evening for an after-dinner stroll, taking any young children or grandchildren with them. One evening we were out on the street with our children. J****, then 5, was on his little bicycle with stabiliser wheels and L***, then 3, was pushing a scooter she was not confident about balancing on yet. Suddenly J**** shouted to me in his usual larger-than-life fashion: “Look Daddy! I can make tracks!!!” It had rained heavily that day and while the pavements were already largely dry there were still puddles of water around. As children regularly do, J**** had made yet another delightful discovery about life; if you go through water and out onto certain dry surfaces you will leave a visible track behind – and on his bicycle James could leave some interesting tread marks.

My boy wanted to increase his sense of delight by sharing his discovery with me. At his request I watched him for a good few minutes as he cycled in and out of the same puddle time and time again, his joy escalating with each run through. With some gentle encouragement from his dad he soon discovered that there were many other puddles around which would give the same result. That enabled us to actually progress on our ambling walk around our locality – from one puddle to the next.

What could explain my boy’s utter ecstasy at this minor discovery? My conclusion was that he saw for the first time – most graphically – that he could leave a mark on this world. He now knew that he could have impact – impact which others could see and which he especially wanted his father to see.

This desire to leave a mark on the world is a good thing. I believe that God has put it in us, though of course Satan tries to twist it into something horribly egotistical. I want to do my best to help James discover what kind of mark God wants him to leave on this world. I also want to help him become the person God wants him to be so that he can make his mark most successfully.

But what will this mark look like? I suspect that it will be quite similar in nature to the tracks my boy made with his bicycle. If you had been able to look at those tracks more closely you would have noticed that they were imperfect and broken. Similarly, any mark we make on the world will be flawed, though its effect on others can be made perfect by God’s grace. Looking again at J****’ bicycle tracks you will also have seen that they soon disappeared, evaporating away. This echoes another truth – that very few people leave a mark that stays visible for long. But then, no matter whether we are high profile people making a widely recognized contribution in this world or people who are known and appreciated only by a few, God knows whether we are making the tracks that He ordained for us to make. And God sees our tracks and their impact however limited is their actual visibility. Many of us are called to be unsung heroes destined to quietly touch the precious lives of those around us.

You probably know the expression ‘Let’s make tracks!’ meaning ‘Let’s go!’ Well, let each of us go and make tracks indeed!

‘You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’ Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

© Mark Alexander, 2011