When I imagine St. Francis in my mind, I cannot divorce the greenish-grey garden statues that colonize every garden. Always very slender, serene, with a few birds at his feet and palms outstretched as though you are supposed to place bird feed in them.
But friends, I fear that if we put bird seed in Francis’ hands, we will find the morsels leaking to the ground through the holes of his stigmata.
Have you seen the flip flops that have words or images imprinted on the bottom, so that when you step in sand or mud the stamp is left behind? Amidst thousands of footprints at the beach, you’ll occasionally spot these cheeky little words or smiley faces pressed into the sand, leaving their mark until washed away.
Everyone loves the quote of Francis (which probably was not his) that says, “Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words.” It is popularly used to justify good upright living or occasional service as sufficient preaching of the Good News of Christ.
But to me it seems that if we are not leaving the imprint of Jesus Christ’s transformation on our lives in all the steps we take, in a way that lingers long after we’ve moved along, then are we truly preaching the gospel? I wonder, if in following the example of St. Francis, we can learn to live a life that proclaims the love and redemption of Jesus in our actions in a way that is utterly unmistakable, in a way that can’t simply be excused as activism or of being a “do-gooder.” In a way that bears the mark of JESUS like a tattoo on our very flesh.
God-willing, I want to learn to walk like Francis. I want to learn to bear the image of Christ is a way that cannot be mistaken in any of my movements. Let my steps leave the imprint of Jesus’ name behind everywhere I walk, that the guiding force of my life be ever unmistakable.