Footprints in the Sand – a Note about Authorship and Source of Inspiration


I had originally planned to post an article about the infamous “Footprints in the Sand” poem, and the inspiration behind this ever popular work – you know the one, the world-traveled poem about a dream where the author is walking and talking with God – until I quickly discovered that the answer to the question of authorship was complicated at best.  This little factoid impeded my plans because authorship is directly related to source of inspiration. 

During my research, I learned that there have been four versions of the poem (all written at different times) with three individuals claiming authorship.  Mary Stevenson is claimed to have composed the poem in 1939 when she was fourteen years old.  Carolyn Joyce Carty claims she wrote the poem when she was only six years old and had it published in 1963.  Margaret Fishback Powers claims she wrote the poem for her wedding in 1964.  All three women have copyrighted their verses, and still the poem appears in slightly different versions and is often credited to “Anonymous”.  So, who wrote the poem and does it really matter?

I expect it matters to those vested parties, especially in terms of acclaim and missed revenue.

By the way, both Zondervan and Harper Collins list Margaret Fishback Powers as the definitive author of this world-famous poem and both companies have published a variety of similar books by this same author, even though the circumstances surrounding this poem remain fraught with copyright infringements and legal mumbo jumbo.  In fact, Christianity Today published an article entitled “Footprints Forensics”, outlining in more detail the complicated legal battle over authorship and quoting Jim Potts, president of Dickson’s (a Christian gift company that includes six pages of “Footprints” products in its online catalog), as having said, “It’s sad ‘Footprints’ has become the source of litigation rather than inspiration.”

However, to the hurting hearts across the world looking for an encouraging word and inspiring phrase, authorship might matter not.  Here’s another question: remembering that the four Gospels were written by different disciples, each with slightly different and yet not so different accounts of their life with Jesus, why wouldn’t God use three different individuals to share and write about a dream of walking with Him in an effort to lead the bleeding soul back into the arms of Jesus?  Perhaps, in this case, the answer is not one of authorship and copyrights, but one of humility.  Perhaps this is God’s reminder to remain humble and not turn His “God-breathed” creations into controversy because authorship (other than His) doesn’t really matter to anyone else.  What matters is His message of love and hope.

So, I ask again: does it really matter who wrote the Footprints poem?  Maybe it shouldn’t.

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