Sunday, January 22, 2012

Silent Spectators

The Word became flesh and
made his dwelling among us.
-John 1:14

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand
--“Timshel,”  Mumford and Sons

Two are red.  These tall patent leather ladies take me to networking events and nights on the town and often accompany a black-and-white striped dress for an added touch of color.  I have two that are orange and they might be my favorite even though they are a little too small.  In a style that never goes out, they compliment my dark jeans and carry me through lots of days at work.  I even have two that I’ve had since high school – old white ones that have tasted the dirt of four countries and countless miles of treadmill.  While I have lived in all these moments myself, the perspective my shoes have to offer would surely be different than my own.  After all, they can look around, see and smell and be aware of things that escape me while I’m engaging in whatever activity I’ve chosen.

Have you ever thought about where your shoes have been?  Coffee shops, kitchens, vacations, cars, bathrooms, bars, sidewalks, festivals, work, dates, the gym, restaurants (and that’s just a few!).  Almost everywhere you go, your shoes go also.  Think of all the things they’ve seen, smelled, heard and touched – the good and the bad. 

Before my trip to Ethiopia, we were prepared for some of the hard things we would see.  I looked at pictures and read as many personal accounts of others’ visits as I was able.  I had a pretty good idea what the streets were going to look like – rocky, with dirt packed down from the weight of the people that walked them daily, littered with the contents of life.  I knew I would need sturdy shoes for the journey, ones that wouldn’t be afraid to face the elements but would also maintain their integrity when faced with some difficult challenges. 

I chose a sturdy pair of New Balance sneakers.  I’ve had these shoes since high school and they still are one of my favorites.  White with some pink accents, I haven’t seen these shoes on the market since I bought them.  They have travelled with me domestically and internationally and have gotten down and dirty in three other countries.  They have wandered through cow pastures in Ireland and explored an abandoned castle, spent time tapping along to music at a Nicaraguan elementary school, and walked every inch of a rubber floor at a medical mission’s clinic set up inside a small church in Ethiopia.  I am proud of these shoes, of all they have seen and experienced.  I hope to take them on many more adventures.

But I was thinking, before and during my time in Ethiopia, about the significance of these shoes in my life.  While planning my 10 day wardrobe, I was conscious of the ability to leave things behind, clothing and toiletries, to be washed and used by missionaries and locals in the area.  Many things I packed I did so with the intention of leaving them behind.  Shoes are bulky and hard to pack and many times I thought about leaving these beloved world travelers behind to make someone else burden a little lighter.  They are good sturdy shoes, comfortable, and would certainly be a blessing to anyone lacking any sort of protection from the elements.

I even thought about what it would mean to bring them home.  These shoes would have trudged through dirt and mud, trash and other things I’d rather not think about.  Would it be sanitary to bring them home?  I suppose I could always wash them, but would any contaminants linger?

In the end, those white sneakers came home with me.  I have not washed them.  I can’t bring myself to do it, too much of that country remains with me.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I washed them upon my return from any international visit.  I’m not worried about any lingering impurities, knowing that it’s not only microscopic pieces of this adventure that remain with these shoes but the memories of those I touched while wearing them. 

Today’s message in church came from Romans 10, verses 8 to 15.  Here are just the last few verses:

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Those shoes have brought some good news; news I’m probably not even aware of, presented in a way I never would have expected.  So today, I’m thinking about shoes.  Not just the money it takes to get them and how I am blessed to have different shoes to accompany me to different occasions, but also the impact going somewhere can make.  Think of all the places we go every day, all the impact we could be making in those places.  And the impact we are making, whether we realize it or not. 

So go. 

Let your shoes take you somewhere today, foreign or familiar, and make an impact.

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